The North Carolina Missions of Mercy set up a free dental clinic on Friday in Dare County.
The clinic at the Youth Center at Family Recreation Park in Kill Devil Hills is a 2-day effort to bring free dental services to people in Eastern North Carolina.
On Friday, the clinic served 400 patients and has the capacity to serve 400 more on Saturday.
Sheila Davies, the Outer Banks coordinator for Missions of Mercy, said the need is undeniable.
“The first person lined up at Noon yesterday and we started seeing patients at 6 am this morning, so they were in line 18 hours waiting,” Davies commented.
Kerita Snowden of Elizabeth City was in line early to make sure she was seen.
“I’ve actually been out here since 3 am this morning. I almost gave up, but I hung on in there!” Snowden exclaimed.
Snowden had 4 teeth extracted at the clinic Friday, work she needed done but her insurance wouldn’t cover.
“Dental insurance is very hard to come by. Even when you get it, it’s very little help, I’ve actually been to the dentist in the last 2 months probably 4 or 5 times and couldn’t get what I needed taken care of,” Snowden said.
Her story is similar to many the North Carolina Missions of Mercy have heard, especially over the past four years that they have come to Dare County.
“We’ve always seen the working poor and the unemployed, but now we are seeing people that had good paying jobs that have nowhere else to turn for their dental care,” explained Dr. Bill Blaylock, a dentist and coordinator of Missions of Mercy in North Carolina.
The clinics rely on volunteer dentists, assistants and hygienists from across the state, as well as nearly 200 community volunteers from the Outer Banks.
“I am a firm believer that to whom much is given, much is expected. I feel like I’ve been very blessed, I feel like this Outer Banks community is incredibly blessed and this is just a small way to be able to give back,” explained volunteer Jennifer McNinch.
All across the gymnasium that served as the hub of the dental clinic, there was a sense of gratitude Friday.
“We see people come in with tears of pain and leave with tears of joy because they are just so grateful to finally have an absecessed tooth taken out or maybe a front filling done to give them a smile back, their self esteem back,” explained Dr. Blaylock.
It’s a sentiment shared by patients like Kerita Snowden.
“I thank all of them for giving their time, for coming out and just supporting people who actually do need the help. It shows that they do care,” Snowden said.
The clinic has the capacity to serve another 400 patients on Saturday.
Davies says they will make special accommodations for folks coming from Hatteras who have to take the ferry thanks to Highway 12 being washed out from Hurricane Sandy.