Dentistry from the Heart benefits all involved

Published 4:44 pm Monday, October 11, 2010

A volunteer dental assistant x-rays a patient prior to treatment during the Dentistry From the Heart event.

On a recent Friday, 152 people left Brierfield, happily leaving behind 293 teeth and looking forward to a future free of the pain those teeth had caused.

Dentistry From the Heart was a blessing both to those people and to the volunteers who provided the service.

Dentistry From the Heart gave free extractions to folks who could not afford treatment through the regular channels. People in pain came in droves. Before 6 a.m., there were folks lined up along Alabama 139. They came from as far away as Greensboro and Oneonta.

Observers were impressed with the calm and appreciative attitude of those seeking service.

They patiently waited their turn, sometimes for several hours. Amy Hathaway, Miki Heaton and Stann Garris had a plan in place that allowed a maximum number of patients to seen by the doctors while the patients and those attending them felt unhurried and unruffled.

Each patient was given a friendly escort who stayed with him or her throughout their visit. They had health information recorded, a blood pressure check and a complete mouth x-ray. After the offending teeth were extracted, the patients were given necessary prescriptions and instructions plus information regarding reduced-cost medications and free support services.

Dr. Mike Mahan explained that, in planning for the event, no requests were made for help, but when the word got out, supplies and volunteers just miraculously materialized. There were donations of water, food, fruit and paper supplies. The local anesthetics and other dental supplies were donated by medical supply houses. Golf carts were brought in to transport people from the parking lot to the clinic. The Department of Transportation sent lighted signs, the Bibb County Sheriff sent officers, Brierfield Fire Department sent paramedics and four area newspapers gave publicity.

Involved in the day’s activities, 6:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., were seven dentists, seven hygienists, six trained assistants, and more than 30 other volunteers who acted as registrars, escorts, shuttle drivers, etc.

One appreciative lady who had just had teeth extracted, said with tears in her eyes, “Dr. Mahan, ‘Why are you doing this?’”

He couldn’t answer for the lump in his throat. “I don’t understand,” she said. “Why are you doing this?”

At a less emotional time, he was asked the same question.

“I heard about the movement when it started in Florida,” Mahan said. “It struck my heart because it produced access to care that costs no tax money and no donations in the form of cash. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that we could accomplish so much in one day.”

Catherine Legg can be reached at