Nearly 800 treated at dental clinic at GHS

Bill Nachman - Posted on Feb 23, 2011 - 04:29 PM

Photo: Almost 800 people received free dental care during a clinic held at Gloucester High School last weekend. Here, Tammy Runion, a dental assistant from Salem, preps Crystal Keith of Hudgins for a set of dentures. Photo by Bill Nachman

Almost 800 people received free dental care during a clinic held at Gloucester High School last weekend. Here, Tammy Runion, a dental assistant from Salem, preps Crystal Keith of Hudgins for a set of dentures. Photo by Bill Nachman

Almost 800 people received free dental care last weekend at Gloucester High School during a clinic coordinated by Hayes dentist Charles Harris and his staff.

In all, dental exams and services were provided to 779 persons—up from 501 treated at last year’s inaugural Mission of Mercy dental clinic, which was also held at Gloucester High School.

Harris said most of those treated were adults, along with approximately 30 children. Patients received an assortment of services, including cleaning, fillings, root canals, extractions and dentures.

At times, 50 or more people were being treated at once, with a number of work stations set up inside the school as well as two portable dental labs parked outside.

The many procedures were accomplished because of the volunteer efforts of 588 people. That total included 91 doctors (most of them dentists), along with more than two dozen dental hygienists, about 65 dental assistants, 80 dental students (with faculty) from Medical College of Virginia, and several hundred people without dental training who assisted in many ways.

"I think this is great," said Crystal Keith of Hudgins, who came Friday to have dentures made. Keith said this is the first time she’s had full dentures—something that she could not afford.

Harris said there were no income parameters to receive the free dental care. Although most of those seeking dental services came from throughout the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck, some came from as far away as Northern Virginia, Richmond, South Hampton Roads and other parts of the state.

Many donations were received to help conduct the clinic, Harris said. In addition, many individual dentists and their staffs paid for their own lodging while in town to volunteer.

A major donation was received from Gloucester Pharmacy, which paid for all prescribed medications to treat clinic patients, Harris said. Keith Hodges, the pharmacy owner, said Tuesday he did not have a final figure of how much the prescriptions cost, but added that he opened his pharmacy special on Sunday to fill some of them.

Although the local clinic was very successful, Harris said he is not sure if another one will be held here next year. That is a decision the Virginia Dental Association will make later this spring. The association is planning to conduct about six such clinics throughout Virginia this year.