Caregivers and uninsured clients connect for a day of dental health.
CANANDAIGUA — Like most people bracing for a tooth extraction, Elizabeth Simmons of Gorham was feeling pretty anxious.
She waited her turn Saturday morning along with dozens of other clients, first on the porch, and then in the front office of Gullo Dental on Main Street.
The event — Free Smile Day — offered free dental care for Ontario County residents without dental insurance, and was made possible by Canandaigua Churches in Action (CCIA), Supply A Smile and Gullo Dental.
“I was very afraid, but it wasn’t bad,” said Simmons, following the extraction. “They talked me through it with visualization because I’m not good with needles.”
Turns out, the whole thing was over before she could even reach for her grandma’s hand for moral support.
“It was really nice to have this option because I’ve had a lot of trouble getting insurance,” said Simmons. “I’ve been struggling with this tooth for a long time.”
Event organizer Joan Wood beamed as she watched another client wipe away tears of joy after she saw her newly repaired smile.
“She had a cavity in her front tooth that was black,” Wood said. “So the dentist took care of it and fixed her tooth and fixed her smile. She was overwhelmed.”
Even those just passing through would easily have been overwhelmed. The small office was buzzing with a steady, efficient flow of clients seeing some 18 dental hygienists and 13 dentists from the Canandaigua area who pitched in to make the event possible.
“Our dental community is so giving and they’re so kind to donate their time,” said Wood, who served as the dental equivalent of an air traffic controller, making sure every exam room was filled with both patients and providers.
“I get blown away by their generosity,” she said. “That they’re so willing to help — it’s a dream come true for me. I love it.”
This is the second annual Free Smile Day. And it will be back again next year, Wood said.
“It’s a culmination of our program that we start in September,” she said. “We tried to do it in May instead of June this year to make scheduling easier, but our weather hasn’t been that cooperative.”
Supply a Smile, a branch of CCIA, provides dental screenings for the uninsured the first Saturday of each month, beginning at 9 a.m., September through April, at the Canandaigua Primary School.
When Gary Burgess of Geneva stopped in at Free Smile Day, he got a double dose of kindness.
The dentist found two cavities that needed to be addressed.
“He was very thorough, very good, very gentle filling the cavities,” said Burgess. “A very nice man and young lady.”
Because traffic flow allowed, Burgess got to circle around for a second time to have his teeth cleaned.
“They were friendly, nice, caring and gentle, you could tell they wanted to do the best they can,” he said of the hygienists who cared for him. “Not only good work, but good people with kind hearts. I don’t know what more you could ask for unless they gave you pizza too.”