People camp out for free dental care

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by Jason Volentine

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonvolentine

Video report by Ryan O'Donnell

Posted on December 24, 2012 at 7:15 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 24 at 7:24 AM

MESA, Ariz. -- The gift of healthy teeth and gums is the Christmas promise of one Valley dental provider and it had people camping out to get the free care.

About a dozen people were lined up with sleeping bags and cots outside Comfort Dental on Country Club Road and Southern Avenue in Mesa Sunday night. The provider is offering free dental care on Christmas Eve day, 7:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m., at every one of its branch offices nationwide.

Known, as Care Day, Comfort Dental started offering free dental care on Christmas Eve morning nearly 30 years ago.

Usually people have to be dragged to the dentist kicking and screaming, but free dental care always grabs a lot of attention. A couple weeks ago 1,500 dental professionals shined the pearly whites of 2,000 people at the Arizona State Fair Grounds in Phoenix. 

While the Comfort Dental event will be much smaller on the local level, it's a huge help.
    
“I have teeth that are very bad,” said Pamela Loyd, who was near the front of the line for free dental care.  “Last time I went it was $300 to get a tooth pulled.”

Loyd said she has health insurance, but, like so many providers, it doesn’t cover dental.

“They used to cover [tooth] extraction on emergency basis, but not anymore," she said.

Her story was like many others who said they’ve been in pain for weeks, months, or even years, unable to afford a trip to the dentist.  Spending one cold night on the sidewalk is therefore a small price to pay for a Christmas miracle.

“I've been crying for weeks because I can't afford a dentist,” said Christa Mitchell.  “Nobody cares.  All they care about is the money. They don't care about the pain you're going through and you can't eat and they don't care.  But these people care.”

“We provide free dental care to help people," said president and founder Dr. Rick Kushner on Comfort Dental's website. "If someone has a bad tooth, hopefully we can make them feel better. For some people, including kids, Care Day might be the only time they see a dentist all year. We’re dentists, so we give away dental services for the holidays. Care Day is one of the cornerstones of the company.”

Service is on a first-come, first-served basis, which is why many camped out overnight.

Last year, Comfort Dental treated more than 4,500 patients nationwide. This year, the company expects to top 5,000 patients.

Mesa locations

  • 407 N. Lindsay Road
  • 1130 E. County Club Drive

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