Patients Line Up for Free Dental Care

By: CBS News
By: CBS News

Even before dawn, some people have been waiting for hours. When Seth Doane visited the line outside a free dental clinic, he asked "what time did you guys get here?"

"One o'clock," a group said.

Others have waited for years just to see a dentist. It's a luxury the uninsured can't afford.

"Oh gosh, no way," one said. The other: "Way too expensive."

But in Loveland, Colo., for two days only, dental care is free.

Bruce Bergstrom, head of America's Dentists Care Foundation, organizes free dental clinics around the country. Everywhere he goes, he sees the need. At 5 a.m. the line wraps around a block.

"Isn't that tragic?" Bergstrom said. "It really is. To me it's tragic."

With an exhibit hall transformed into a massive dental clinic, they do what they can: cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals - all for free.
Eight hundred volunteers, including 113 dentists, have donated time and skill - and pay their own way.

"This is costing you a lot," Doane said to volunteer pediatric dentist John Fales.

"Yeah, it is, but it's just a way to give back," he said.

Fales closed his Kansas City office for a few days and flew five members of his staff to the clinic. One of his first patients is 8-year-old Jericho Rogers, who was up at 2 a.m. to get there.

"He says he hasn't seen a dentist in three or four years - are you surprised by looking at his mouth?" Doane said.

"No, not at all," Fales said. "There's a lot of children running around in the United States that have cavities just like this - and mostly just for lack of good dental insurance coverage."

Jericho's parents need help, too. His mom's job at a sandwich shop doesn't provide dental. If she had to have six cavities filled by a dentist and pay for it, what would she have to pay?

"Probably over $1,000," said dentist Stephanie Kaufmann.

"A thousand dollars? That's my rent payment a month - so, it's either rent or get my teeth fixed … well, I'm going to go for a roof over my head!" Cindy Rogers said.

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