ANDERSON — Ashley Gray was more than willing to drive from New Castle to Anderson to help ease the pain in her teeth.
Gray was among dozens of patients Saturday who came to Free Dentistry Day at Anderson Family Dental, 777 Broadway. Although Gray, 28, got in line at 7 a.m., it was particularly rewarding for her. She has no dental insurance.
“I think it is a wonderful thing for people who are not able to afford it,” she said. “I’ve been here all day, but it was worth it to get rid of the pain.”
Normally there is a catch when something is offered for free, but that was not the case for the 85 patients who had their teeth cleaned, filled or pulled on Saturday.
It really was a free service.
Anderson Family Dental provided more than $29,000 in services to those in need. The dental work, offered to people of all ages, did not have any income requirements or limitations and was well attended, officials said. More than 1,200 people had liked and shared the news of the event on Facebook weeks before the event and more than 12,000 had viewed the announcement.
Dr. Devanshu Chowdhary, a dentist at Anderson Family Dental, said each procedure was averaging about 15 to 30 minutes.
The first patients arrived at 3:30 a.m.
“I have no idea how many people we have seen,” Chowdhary said around 2 p.m. “We decided to do this to give back to the community.”
The free services helped those like Traci Smith, 22, Anderson, who also has no dental insurance. Smith sat for hours on the blacktop parking lot outside the dentistry waiting to have a cavity filled.
“They have been awesome,” Smith said.
Kate Wright, a practice administrator for the dental office, organized the day of free services and said this was the first time the free services had been offered by Anderson Family Dental. The event will be an annual one, she said.
“Next year we will probably do things a little differently,” Wright said. “I wish there were other doctors in the area that would do it.”
Patrick Berryman, 21, Anderson, waited for more than seven hours for a tooth extraction that would have cost him between $180 to $300. Berryman said his tooth was broken and he had been dealing with the pain for about two years.
“I’ve never heard of free dentistry,” he said. “I did not know what to expect.”
Unfortunately, Berryman was told he would have to come back to receive his free extraction on another day.
Many people were turned away after 1 p.m. when organizers realized they were at their capacity to treat those already waiting in line before a 3 p.m. cutoff time. Coupons for discounted services were given to those who could not receive services. Some who had waited most of the day, like Berryman, were told they would have to come back on another day for their free service.
Darlene Beck-Williams, Anderson, brought her grandson, Jayvierir Williams, 3, to have his teeth cleaned, but she was one of the many people who were given a coupon to later receive discounted services.
“We wanted to get a cleaning and see what is going on with our teeth,” she said. “When I read about it I could not believe it was free. I was a little shocked.”
Chowdhary said the best advice he can give people to prevent major dental costs is to receive regular dental care. He said too often people choose to neglect their dental work until major procedures are required.
“With regular care we can catch things when they are smaller and not only is it easier to care for them when they are smaller, it is cheaper than if you wait,” he said.
Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @ moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.
Dental facts According to the American Dental Association, about half of all lower income Americans did not visit a dentist, and a little over a third admit to living with an untreated cavity.