08/20/06 — Free dental clinic Friday, Saturday at St. Andrew's Church

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Free dental clinic Friday, Saturday at St. Andrew's Church

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 20, 2006 2:04 AM

A Goldsboro dentist who wants to give back to the community has helped bring a free dental clinic to town this week.

Dr. Rick Stovall learned firsthand about the "Open Door Dental Clinic" last year when he and members of his staff volunteered to help in the portable clinic when it was in Burlington.

So impressed by the impact it had on the "underserved" population, Stovall said they requested it be brought to Goldsboro. On Friday and Saturday, Wayne County residents will be able to take advantage of the service.

Stovall said the program originated in Alamance County in 1998 in conjunction with the county's Health Department. It expanded in 2004 when the N.C. Missions of Mercy began to hold free weekend dental clinics around the state. That same year, the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation awarded $140,000 for the purchase of enough equipment to set up a portable full-service dental clinic to outfit 30 treatment stations.

"Access to care is an issue and this helps to address that to a certain degree. It helps to put a dent in it," Stovall said of the program.

Originally set up as a one-day event, Stovall got the call recently that a second day had been added. It will take place on Friday and Saturday at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church on Harris Street. Friday's hours will be from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.; on Saturday it will operate from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The only thing lacking now is volunteers to staff the clinic, Stovall said.

"We need dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, even office help," he said. Letters have already been sent around to local dental offices asking for participation, he said. But the hope is that others will also support the project.

"This is the first time, but we want to make this an annual event," he said.

The church donated the location, he said, which will be set up like "a MASH unit." While some patients may come in for a simple check-up or cleaning, the outfit is also equipped to handle extractions and fillings.

"We're basically addressing patients' urgent needs at that time," Stovall said.

With rising numbers having limited health insurance and even more lacking dental insurance, Stovall said that patients will often shortchange themselves on getting sufficient dental care.

"A lot of times dental health is affecting their daily health," making it reason enough to offer programs such as this, he said.

"The patients, when you finish, some of them are in tears because they know they couldn't have afforded it," he said. "They're just extremely appreciative, even the people that just got their teeth cleaned."

The rewards are also felt by those who volunteer with the program, he said, which is why his staff so heartily endorsed bringing it to Goldsboro.

"It's a rewarding event. It's overwhelming the response you get from the people. They're very appreciative," he said.

For more information or to volunteer, call Dr. Stovall's office at 735-3431.