Hundreds lined up outside First Baptist Church, some as much as two days early, to get free dental care at a clinic that opened at 6 a.m. Friday.
It’s the sixth annual S.C. Dental Access Days clinic, but the first to be held in the upstate region that abuts Charlotte. Dale Dove, founder of Rock Hill’s Renew Our Community ministry, said he lobbied the South Carolina Dental Society to bring the event north because of the urgent need.
Not only will it help the people who are served, Dove said, but it will highlight the need for access to dental care. Volunteers from area churches and community groups joined dentists, technicians and suppliers to make the mass clinic work.
“Unless you’ve seen something like this, it’s hard to explain it,” he said.
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Shanika Watson brought her aunt at 1 a.m. Friday to get in line to have five teeth removed. By 11 a.m., her aunt was done, her mouth packed with gauze.
“It’s a blessing to the community,” Watson said.
The clinic expects to serve about 1,500 people by the time it closes Saturday afternoon.
S.C. DAD is modeled on N.C. MOM, or Missions of Mercy. The N.C. Dental Society began doing free clinics about a decade ago; the next one in Charlotte will be Sept. 5-6 at the Charlotte Convention Center. Like the Rock Hill event, it will be first-come, first-served adult care.
Dove said patients at Friday’s event came from around South Carolina – and may have even crossed the state line. There’s no screening by income or residence, he said.
“Whoever shows up – if you’ve got a mouth and teeth, we see you,” Dove said.