Free Dental Clinic in Greensboro Friday, Saturday

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Hundreds of people remain outside the Greensboro Coliseum in hopes of getting into a free, two-day dental clinic that started Friday and ends Saturday.The first-come, first-served clinic started at 6 a.m. and is targeting those without insurance. It is being held by the North Carolina Dental Society and has drawn more than 50 dentists from across the state to help out.

Dentists hope to help 1,000 people Friday and Saturday. But with thousands expected to show, not everyone will get in and many people are keeping warm by staying in tents set up by dentists outside.

Some had been waiting at the coliseum since noon Thursday, a full 18 hours before the first patients would be allowed in.

“I took time off work. I told them I needed time off so I could come get my mouth work done,” said one standing in line from Statesville.

There are several guidelines that those who make it into the clinic have to follow. All patients must have a picture ID and sign an affidavit stating that they are of eligible income for the clinic.

Eligible income levels are adults whose income is 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines: That’s $21,660 for singles, $29,340 for couples or $44,100 for a family of four.

There are no appointments, and there is only one cleaning, extracting or filling service per client.

Dr. Homer Bell, who started working at the clinic at 7 a.m. Friday, said extractions are the most common procedure being performed.

“Most of these people have homes, have a car… but they don’t have expendable cash or resources to get dental care so they come to these clinics,” Bell said.

Michael Spence, who went to the clinic for a simple cleaning, said at 11 a.m. that he had been waiting in line for 5 1/2 hours.

“What is difficult is when we come to Saturday afternoon and we have to turn people away,” Bell said.

But Spence said he’s staying put in hopes that his spot in line will make the cut.

“I’m going to tough it out. I’ll be here until they tell me I got to leave,” Spence said.

The clinic started three years ago and was hosted by a local church, but organizers said the event quickly outgrew the small space. There are now about twice as many chairs for patients as opposed to what the clinic held in 2010.

For more information on the program, call (336) 832-4899.