September 11, 2009



Lost in all the discussion about healthcare reform is the oddly American notion that our teeth are not connected to the rest of our bodies, and have nothing to do with health. So am I surprised that 2000 people stood in line to get free dental care in America yesterday? Hell, no:

BRIGHTON — The doors to a free dental clinic in Brighton opened at 5:00 this morning to a throng of anxious people.

The first person in line was Robin Kelley, 59, of Westminster, who got in line last night at 5 p.m.

We only have one car," she explained, "and my husband works at night, so he dropped me off."

Like others in line, she had a blanket and camped out on the sidewalk. "The company was warm and great," she said.

At 6:15 organizers gave out 808 tickets for services, then ended the line because they felt that was the number of patients that could be seen today. The free clinic continues tomorrow.

David Hathaway, 49, of Arvada was second in line. He is unemployed with no insurance. He heard about the opportunity for free dental care at 3:30 Thursday afternoon and said to himself, "I gotta get out there," he related.

This morning he has already had two root canals and expects to leave with a cleaning, as well.

This is "a godsend," he said. "I think it's great what they are offering."

Earlier this week, Molly Pereira, associate executive director of the Colorado Dental Association, had predicted "a humongous turnout.

Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, sent an automated call to 20,000 constituents, letting them know about the clinic.

Solano reported that a Thornton woman called her to say, "This must be an answer to our prayers."

The woman said her husband and son need dental treatment, but the family can't afford it because of medical bills for their child with special needs.

The two-day clinic is not taking appointments, Pereira said. It is treating people on a first-come, first- served basis.

Dentists, dental hygienists and other medical professionals are volunteering their services for the event, called the Colorado Mission of Mercy.

It's the first COMOM clinic in the metro area and the first since the economy slid into a recession.

"I think we are going to get patients from all walks of life," Pereira said.

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