In the past, when Lake Norman residents had a dental emergency after hours, the best they could hope for was some pain medication and antibiotics from an emergency room.
Such facilities are not typically staffed with dentists who can perform such complex procedures as root canals or tooth removals, said Dr. Keith Kye.
But with the recent opening of the Mooresville Emergency Dental Clinic off River Highway, patients can get their dental problems addressed during extended and weekend hours.
Kye and his business partner opened the Mooresville clinic after seeing the success their first emergency dental clinic experienced off Park Road in Charlotte.
The pair opened that first clinic in October 2009.
"It was an urgent care for dentistry that has not been seen in this area before," said Kye. "You can't predict when these things are going to happen and people had nowhere to go. Emergency rooms cannot do anything for toothaches, because that's kind of foreign to them."
The two business partners opened the Mooresville location in September. Since then, the clinic has seen more than 600 patients, said dentist Donna Knowlton.
The clinic sees insured and uninsured patients, walk-ins and appointments, said Knowlton.
On a recent weekday afternoon, Doris Phifer visited the Mooresville emergency dental clinic for a filling.
Her front tooth had been hurting for a few days, she said. As she was driving to a Mooresville restaurant, she noticed the new clinic and stopped to check it out.
The Mooresville resident said that while she used to go to the dentist every six months, she stopped going a few years ago when her husband's insurance ran out.
"If you don't have insurance, you're up a creek," said Phifer.
Kye said it's increasingly common, in the current economic climate, for patients to forgo regular checkups. His two emergency dental clinics provide an affordable way to address dental problems as they arise, as well as those who are insured , he said.
The clinic charges $65 for one X-ray and an exam. The clinic also provides such services as cleanings, extractions and root canals, which cost $75 to $1,135, depending on the procedure.
Another huge draw is the clinic's flexible hours, said Kye. For instance, business and professional people find it easier to squeeze in an appointment, since the clinic is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The clinic also has weekend hours.
It's a good option for those who have dental emergencies that can't wait until the next business day to visit their regular dentist.
"You would be amazed at the situations the come up," said Knowlton, who said the clinic has treated everything from abscesses to root canals. "The pain can be so excruciating to where you feel like you can't move forward with your day."
Knowlton estimated about half of the patients who come to the Mooresville clinic are emergency walk-ins, while the rest come in for regular appointments.
"That's why you have urgent cares: Because things happen," she said. "Whether it's because of neglect or some underlying issue going on, it has to be treated right then."
Still, Kye emphasized that the goal is not to take patients away from other dentists. Instead, Kye sees his emergency clinics as a useful alternative when one's regular dentist is unavailable.
Many area dentists often refer clients to the emergency dental clinic when they leave for a holiday or vacation, said Knowlton.
After their initial exam at the emergency clinic, patients can decide whether to get a procedure done there or go to their regular dentist, said Kye.