Free services will be provided at a Mount Airy dental office on April Fools’ Day— which is no joke.
During the April 1 event at the office of John Gravitte, D.D.S., P.A., at 140 North Pointe Boulevard, fillings, cleanings and extractions are to be provided at no charge, along with free advanced oral cancer screenings. Those services will be open to anyone in need of dental care in the community on a first-come, first-served basis.
It will be provided through an annual charity campaign in which Dr. Gravitte’s office acts as local host for a non-profit program called Dentistry from the Heart.
“This is our third year hosting it,” Abigail Chapman, executive assistant and marketing director there, said of the event scheduled from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 1, which falls on a Saturday.
The first two years of the program have seen hundreds of people turn out for the free dental care, some even arriving the day before and waiting in line more than 12 hours, according to Chapman.
Last year’s attendance was noteworthy. “It’s pretty safe to say around 500, at least,” said Chapman, who added that an undetermined number of others who weren’t part of that count also arrived at the site, saw the long lines and left.
While many local residents have come out for past events, the office also has treated patients who traveled from as far away as Georgia to receive free dental care. Through social media promotion alone, the upcoming effort already has captured the interest of thousands, stretching to California.
The service is provided on an entirely volunteer basis, with everyone involved — including doctors, hygienists and dental assistants — donating their time to serve the community.
“We have at least five dentists, and we may have a couple more come down,” Chapman said at last report of those who will be supplying services on April 1. She expects 50 to 60 volunteers to be involved, including a group of pre-dentistry students from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Local pharmacies also are donating medications for patients treated that day, restaurants are providing food for volunteers and other suppliers are contributing goods to both patients and volunteers.
“We are always open to more volunteers as well, especially dental hygienists and dental assistants,” Chapman continued regarding the intent of organizers to reach as many patients as possible.
Individuals or businesses wanting to aid the cause can contact her at (336) 719-2273, extension 221, or by email at [email protected]
“Such a blessing”
The day of free dental services is a favorite time of year for personnel at Dr. Gravitte’s office, who become caught up in the spirit of giving.
“These free services are such a blessing to so many,” Chapman added.
“Many of us, myself included, have taken for granted our dental health, simply because we’ve always had access to dental care. To see some of these individuals come through needing extensive care, and then seeing how truly thankful they are after the fact, is one of the most humbling and special experiences you will ever have.”
Chapman said the charity program provides a reminder of the tough times many people are experiencing.
She’s heard stories from individuals who have put off dental care for years, because their money went for more-pressing needs such as food, housing and others. The list of grateful recipients has included both children and adults.
“And they needed all kinds of things done,” Chapman said.
In order to manage the anticipated crowds, organizers of the free dental day have provided a list of precautions to those seeking to receive the services:
• Patients should plan to arrive early on April 1, when registration will begin at 6:30 a.m.
• All eligible patients (based on medical history) will be seen on a first-come, first-served basis, with the initial 75 qualified individuals guaranteed for treatment.
• No on-site parking will be provided for patients, only for volunteers and members of the press, and the patient line must be formed off-property at the dental office’s main sign on North Pointe Boulevard.
• Patients can choose from a free filling, extraction or cleaning.
• They should dress according to the weather, and bring chairs/blankets/snacks/etc. due to the possibility of waiting outside for a majority of the day.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.