BROOKSVILLE — Getting up before sunrise on Saturday wasn’t a burden for the early-risers among those who attended Free Dentistry Day at The Dentist Place and The Dentist Place for Kids.
People began arriving as early as 6 a.m. to wait in line for one of three procedures offered, free of charge, for anyone who registered before 4 p.m.
One man rode his bicycle four hours from Crystal River on Friday night to be among the first in line, said an administrator at The Dentist Place for Kids. A staff member made sure he had warm blankets and something to eat during his overnight stay. The patient was in and out of his cleaning before 9:15 a.m.
By 11 a.m. the line wrapped around the building. Low humidity and cool temperatures for mid-May made the wait a bit more tolerable.
People chatted and became friends — based on a commonality of needing dental work but not being financially able to pay for it.
That was the point of Free Dentistry Day, the second of its kind for The Dentist Place for Kids and the first for The Dentist Place.
Staff at The Dentist Place were thrilled with the turnout, which by noon had surpassed last year’s total at The Dentist Place for Kids. People who signed up by 4 p.m. received treatment.
“We want to give back to the community,” said Bernadette Perillo of The Dentist Place. The staff hoped to treat close to 200 people Saturday.
The Dentist Place and The Dentist Place for Kids combined for the effort, along with Storm Briggs, a volunteer dentist from Tampa. They also reached out to local dental schools for volunteer hygienists and assistants.
Local restaurants — Subway, Ruby Tuesday and Texas Roadhouse — provided food for the staff.
Inside the clinic, dentists and support staffers cleaned, filled and extracted teeth in 14 rooms. Children were treated first, Perillo said, so most of the people standing in line were adults.
Dentists Lars Berk and Stephen Gardner handled adult patients while dentists Issi Issi and Anjai Rajani worked on children.
Joseph Caggina, of Spring Hill, sat in a dentist chair as Gardner looked to see which tooth was causing him pain. Caggina said he heard about Saturday’s event from his mother.
In one of the rooms for children, Markus Stilas sat surrounded by Disney characters. Rajani and his assistant, Barbara Krafcik, extracted one of Markus’ molars.
“That’s what it was it was about,” Perillo reiterated. “Giving back to the community.”