Volunteer dentists give hundreds something to smile about

Volunteer dentists give hundreds something to smile about
November 21
00:00 2014
(pictured above:  Volunteers treat hundreds of patients.)

Hundreds of people braved the cold and endured an hourslong wait to have their dental needs met free of charge.


North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NCMOM), a free dental program that sets up makeshift clinics across the state to treat the many who cannot afford dental care, came to the Education Building at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds on Friday, Nov. 14 and Saturday, Nov. 15. About 1,000 people were expected to receive treatment – everything from cleanings to extractions and filings – over the two days, said Dr. Tony Porter, a Winston-Salem dentist who helped to organize the local clinic. NCMOM relies on volunteer dentists like Porter and other volunteer oral health professionals to stage the free clinics. In all, more than 300 volunteers manned the two-day clinic. In addition, more than 500 community volunteers were on hand to serve as translators, parking attendants and medical scribes.

Patients were seen on a first-come, first-served basis. When the doors opened at 6 a.m. on Friday, hundreds of people were already waiting outside, braving temperatures in the 30s.

“We got here this morning and there were over 600 people. By 8 a.m., there were more than 800 people here already,” Porter said.

Eighty dental chairs were set up inside the building; a digital x-ray truck was also stationed inside. Patients were given wristbands embossed with a number denoting their place on the waiting list. Those with particularly high numbers had the option of returning on Saturday, when their wait wouldn’t be as long. Once a patient made it into the treatment area, they provided their medical history, received an x-ray and then an exam. After that, volunteers decided what the patient’s most pressing need was and proceeded with the treatment.

Dr. Tony Porter

Dr. Tony Porter

“There is an awful lot of people who do not have access to dental care. We know the economy’s bad and that money’s tight,” Porter said. “Dentistry gets put on the back burner when times get tight. We know that so we are here to address that need.” 

NCMOM receives operating funds through donations and grants, including ones from several local entities like the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the Winston-Salem Foundation, the City of Winston-Salem and Reynolds American.

“We don’t charge the patients a dime. Some of the supplies are donated but most of it has to be bought,” said Porter, a recent International College of Dentists inductee.

Kim Nichols drove all the way from Kings Mountain on the night of Thursday, Nov. 13 to be be examined. She arrived at 11:45 p.m. and slept in her car until doors opened. She said her need outweighed her travel and wait.

Kim Nichols

Kim Nichols

“I feel like it’s good that they are giving this service for people who cannot afford it,” she said. “I’m a little bit sleepy but I will be OK.” 

After arriving at about 5:30 a.m., Winston-Salem resident Qiana Williams was the 83rd person in line. She has no dental insurance and came to get her wisdom teeth removed, a costly procedure.

Qiana Williams

Qiana Williams

“They were causing so many problems and pain. Everywhere I went they wanted to send me to an oral surgeon. It was like $1,200 for them to take out wisdom teeth,” Williams said.
She called the service and the professionals who provided top-notch.

“The way they did it was so efficient. It took 20 to 30 minutes. My dentist was also very funny and really nice,” Williams said.

For more information about NCMOM, visit

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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