Greensboro, NC -- A first-come, first-served free clinic that may treat as many as 1,000 people will be held at the Greensboro Coliseum, where dentists will clean and fill teeth for people who otherwise couldn't afford the treatment.
The News & Record of Greensboro reports that the Missions of Mercy clinic will be held Friday and Saturday. The Cone Health Congregational Nursing Program is working with the N.C. Dental Society, which sets up makeshift clinics and works with local dentists and volunteers to staff them.
The group's goal is to treat 1,000 people this weekend. The volunteer dentists, dental assistants and hygienists are setting up 72 treatment chairs.
Services range from teeth cleaning to routine fillings and surgical proceedings.
"I know that the premise is we try to take care of the one or two most urgent things they have, but my experience is practitioners try to do as much for an individual as they can," said Dr. Charles Norman, one of the participating Greensboro dentists. "I think we try to eliminate as many of the urgent issues as they have, so they won't be back in that position."
Last year, that included a man in a low-paying job without health insurance who was missing work because of abscessed teeth. He had been to the emergency room three times and had received antibiotics, but he couldn't get the teeth pulled until he got to Greensboro.
The donated services in Greensboro should total at least $500,000 for this weekend. A 36-hour clinic in Charlotte recently provided care for 2,145 people, with an estimated value of $1.1 million.
"Many of them sat there for 30 hours to get treated," said Dr. Bill Blaylock, who oversees Missions of Mercy. "We have seen a trend of more and more people who had good paying jobs and dental benefits, and now they've lost the jobs and the benefits, and they're turning to us to get their routine care."
Last year, a major equipment failure cut short a free two-day dental clinic at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, where people had slept overnight on the church's lawn to get a place in line.
"These people had driven all night from Dare County, hoping to be seen," said Leila Moore, coordinator of the Cone Health Congregational Nursing Program. "This poor lady sat there and cried and cried, and it broke my heart.
"The need is that great."
This weekend's stop is one of 12 in North Carolina this year and is open to anyone in the state.