For the first time in four years, Dentistry With Heart will be returning to Mount Airy, offering free dental work and cleanings for those who might not otherwise be able to afford dental care.
Dentistry With Heart is a program put on by the dental office of Dr. John L. Gravitte, DDS, with Gravitte, other dentists and dental students, along with dental hygienist and volunteers who offer their services for free to as many people as they can see in the day-long event. It is scheduled for Saturday, May 20.
“This year, it is very similar to our earlier format,” said Amanda Fretwell, marketing director for Gravitte’s practice at 140 North Pointe Blvd., where Dentistry With Heart will take place. “It will be a first come, first served for extractions, fillings or cleaning,” she said. In addition, oral cancer screenings will be performed.
“We’ll have four dentists, one oral surgeon…several hygienists,” she said. Some of the dentists are friends of Dr. Gravitte, who come in and stay in town for the weekend, spending all day Saturday working on patients.
“Registration will begin at 7:30 Saturday morning,” she said, with the work going on from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Fretwell said in past events, they have seen close to 200 patients in a day.
“It is a lot, we try to also do as many cleanings, the preventative cleanings, for as many patients as we can as well. With the oral surgeon, with the other dentists, it’s kind of a well-oiled machine. The volunteers are so key, they help to turn the rooms over between patients. We have volunteers doing X-rays, other volunteers doing oral cancer screenings. All of our volunteers play such key roles, they help make the event such a big success. That’s what allows us to help so many people.”
In previous years, those volunteers have come from the ranks of nursing students at Surry Community College, from area high school HOSA students, UNC-Chapel Hill dental students and some other community colleges in the region. Earlier this week in discussing the upcoming event, Fretwell said the final number and origin of this year’s volunteer force had not been finalized.
While this is the first Dentistry With Heart event since 2019, it will be the sixth one overall. It had become an annual event, but was canceled for three years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of people haven’t been to the dentist during this time, so we’re expecting a really big turnout,” she said.
In addition to the dental care, she said a host of other health-related and human service agencies will be on hand to distribute material. Mostly, that will be information about other health concerns individuals may have, as well as highlighting resources available in the community for those who often cannot afford healthcare and other needs.
Among those agencies will be the Surry County Department of Health and Nutrition, specifically distributing information about that agency’s diabetes program, Insight Human Service, and others.
Fretwell said those hoping to take advantage of the free dental care should arrive early.
“People usually start lining up Thursday night,” she said, with some people sleeping in their cars and remaining there until the event opens on Saturday. She said the Mount Airy Police Department helps tremendously by having officers increase patrols and be on hand to direct traffic, as early as people start coming in and taking up waiting spaces.
She offers additional caution to those already undergoing treatment for other medical conditions.
“One of the most important things, the patients, if they do have any medical issues, or if they take blood thinners, they do need to have a medical clearance from their doctor and bring a list of their medication with them. That’s one of the most important things.”
“We are so excited to bring this event back to our community,” she said. “We have a lot of partnerships that make this possible. Together, working with all of our partner organizations, who are also doing good things in the community…that’s what makes Mount Airy such a great community, when we all come together for events like this.”