Free dental clinic this weekend

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Feb 16, 2011 - 05:14 PM

Photo: Dr. Charles Harris’s dental exam rooms are all packed to the brim with boxes of supplies for this weekend’s free dental clinic at Gloucester High School. The boxes contain everything from teddy bears for children to T-shirts for volunteers. Harris said he’s looking forward to the event. “It’s a labor of love,” he said. “We all enjoy dentistry, and the need is so great.” Harris, seated in the exam chair, is shown here with his staff, all of whom will be helping out this weekend. They are, seated at left, Phyllis Harris; and standing from left, Becky Smith, Pam Tokarz, Karrie Cooper, and lead organizer Kelly Cooper. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

Dr. Charles Harris’s dental exam rooms are all packed to the brim with boxes of supplies for this weekend’s free dental clinic at Gloucester High School. The boxes contain everything from teddy bears for children to T-shirts for volunteers. Harris said he’s looking forward to the event. “It’s a labor of love,” he said. “We all enjoy dentistry, and the need is so great.” Harris, seated in the exam chair, is shown here with his staff, all of whom will be helping out this weekend. They are, seated at left, Phyllis Harris; and standing from left, Becky Smith, Pam Tokarz, Karrie Cooper, and lead organizer Kelly Cooper. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

As many as 750 patients will receive free dental work and screenings for various health problems this weekend during a clinic being held at Gloucester High School.

Area residents who can’t afford dental care because they’re uninsured or underinsured can receive cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and extractions of visible teeth at no charge from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to noon Sunday on a first-come, first-served basis.

Since the lines will be long, Gloucester dentist Dr. Charles Harris, whose office is spearheading the effort, suggested that those attending bring snacks or lunches with them. They will also need a list of the medications they’re on, especially if they need to have teeth pulled. Prospective patients should park in Gloucester High School’s student parking lot and follow the signs to the designated entry.

Harris said that last year there was a lag time early Saturday morning, during which no patients were seen because everyone needed to be screened and triaged first. To keep that from happening this time, a telephone call-in was held on Friday to sign up 150 patients for screening and triage tomorrow. He said that those 150 slots were quickly filled.

"One lady said she speed-dialed for an hour before she got through," he said.

Because of a telephone company glitch that transferred calls to an answering machine when all the lines were tied up, some people gave up and didn’t make it on the list for the Friday screenings, said Harris. But he said that shouldn’t keep people from coming out on Saturday and/or Sunday morning.

"This is free to all patients," said Harris. "If you’re living and breathing and you’ve got a problem, we’ll see you. You do not pay a dime."