High Surf Advisory issued January 26 at 3:34AM EST expiring January 27 at 7:00AM EST in effect for: Pinellas
When Florida Dental Association President Terry Buckenheimer walked from his office Friday, a line outside seemed to stretch for miles. Eight hundred people waited for a chance at free dental care.
The association organized the free dental clinic, offering cleanings, extractions and surgery, at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Some of the people in line, like Pat Collins, considered it a blessing because they have no other option.
"Words can't express how happy I am to finally get this dental work done because I haven't had dental insurance since I retired and that's about 10 years ago,” said Collins, who relies on Medicaid.
A lot of patients there were just like her – grateful.
"It may hurt afterwards when the good stuff wears off, but it was well worth it," Santanna Guzman said.
Three hundred dentists shut down their offices across the state for two days to run the clinic with help from 1,300 volunteers.
"They really come to us here, unfortunately, not so much to say ‘Fix my tooth’ as opposed to ‘Please take this out, it hurts so much,’” said dental surgeon Dr. Michael Pikos.
Manny Cruz, another person in line, lost his job but still needed his wisdom teeth removed.
"I was unemployed for quite some time so I'm just barely getting back up and playing catch up with the bills," said Cruz.
The line will likely be just as long Saturday when the free clinic opens at 5 a.m. and runs until 6 p.m.
"Come early,” Buckenheimer said.