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Free dental care draws big crowd
Dentists provide fillings, extractions and cleanings
Dentist Michael Vetter, assisted by Kim Willard, works on patient David Whitaker during the Dentists with Heart event Friday at the Gainesville Dental Group. Whitaker said he slept in his car in the parking lot so he could be first in line for the free dental service. - photo by Tom Reed

A Gainesville dental office opened its doors Friday to offer free care to more than 80 people in need.

It was the second annual Dentists with Heart event, where dentists provided free fillings, extractions and cleanings.

“Last year we didn’t know what to expect,” said Sarah Gallaher, business manager for Gainesville Dental Group. “We were astounded when we rounded the corner and the line was stretched to the end of our parking lot.”

Last year, 76 people were treated. This year, the group was prepared for the crowd.

“We have more supplies on hand, more people on hand this year ... so it’s a little more streamlined,” Gallaher said.

They also handed out numbers instead of operating on a first- come, first-served basis, Gallaher said, so people wouldn’t have to wait all day.

“We tried to take notes from last year,” she said. “This year we’ve handed out 81 numbers because we knew we could see that many for sure.”

But some were willing to wait.

“Our first folks were here at 9:30 p.m. (Thursday),” dentist Kell Gallaher said.

“If someone’s willing to wait from 9 p.m. until the next day, then there’s a need for dentistry in this community,” Sarah Gallaher said.

Sherry Mize of Gainesville said she appreciated the opportunity for free dental care.

“My husband and I are both out of work right now, so I decided to jump on it,” Mize said.

Mize said dental care was hard to afford even when she had insurance.

“Dental insurance is expensive, with the co-pay and everything,” Mize said.