Patients line up before dawn for free dental care

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Free dental care was provided to hundreds of new patients in need of a tooth extraction or a filling at Shamblott Family Dentistry in Hopkins, MN on February 24. The annual community giving event has been sponsored by Dr. Scott Shamblott for the last six years, in collaboration with Dentistry From The Heart (DFTH), a nonprofit organization based in Florida.

This year, two other dental offices in metropolitan Minneapolis joined forces with Shamblott Family Dentistry to sponsor free dental care to people seeking relief from dental pain: Mill City Dental in Minneapolis and Lakeville Dental in Lakeville.

“Patients are seen on a first come, first serve basis,” said Kate Shamblott, who assisted with the day’s work.  “People can’t afford dentistry but when you are in pain and you need to get out of it, we want to help.”

Shamblott Family Dentistry was scheduled to open its doors at 7:00 a.m., but Doug Berg arrived at 5:30 a.m. Berg, who said he is an unemployed worker, said the dental office allowed him entrance along with about fourteen other people who were already there before him.

Berg said the dental staff treated him for swelling and tooth irritation he had been experiencing for the last year as a result of being in a car accident, including filling the cavity. To others who may need dental care and cannot afford it, Berg said, “Take advantage of the opportunity to get help when you can.” Referring to the dental staff, Berg added, “They are nice, friendly and talkative. It is a happy, friendly place.”

Bettina Verhalen, Dr. Shamblott’s dental assistant, said the DFTH events are open to the public at all of the participating dental locations in the metropolitan Minneapolis area; however, only new patients are eligible to receive the free services: “The services provided are one filling or one extraction and an x-ray and exam limited to diagnosing the problem area of the mouth,” Verhalen said, “Cleanings are not part of the free services offered.”

Verhalen said the patients receiving services are not screened for income levels, but they must complete forms including health history, demographic information and consent for a tooth extraction or filling, and a release form for media photographs.

Tania Williams said she is usually terrified of dentists, but she had a sensitive cracked tooth that had been bothering her. She arrived with her fiancé for dental treatment at about 6:15 a.m. Williams said she was pleased and relieved with the way she was treated at Shamblott Family Dentistry. Before arriving, Williams said, she took three ibuprofens to help relieve the pain with no significant relief. While at the dental office, Williams said she received x-rays, anesthesia, and a quick tooth extraction. She said, “Everything was over before I knew it. It was fast and efficient, and everyone treated me really nice: Dr. Shamblott was good about keeping me out of pain. Kathy, the hygienist was really nice, and Melissa the volunteer student was really nice.”

Williams said she learned about DFTH from her fiancé who saw it advertised on the St. John’s and St. Joseph’s churches’ bulletin boards.

Dr. Shamblott said the annual DFTH event is, “a way for me to give back to the community on a little bit larger scale…this has no restrictions: young and old are welcome…just has to be a new patient.”

Dr. Shamblott said he learned about DFTH at a seminar about six years ago, and he has been trying to recruit other dentists in Minnesota since that time, but many do not want to sponsor the annual event. He said he reaches out to recruit other dental offices to sponsor DFTH by making phone calls to them, making announcements at local churches and making announcements through local radio stations. However, he said not many dental offices in Minnesota agree to participate.

In order to sponsor the annual DFTH event at his dental office, Dr. Shamblott said he gets help from volunteer staff made up of about six veteran dental assistants and some student hygienists from local colleges. He also said that some supplies are donated by dental labs and other dental offices. 

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