Free dental clinic in Vallejo will help hundreds who can't afford care

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- Nobody likes going to the dentist, until they really need one. And without money or insurance, some Californians have had to go years without important dental procedures. But, Friday and Saturday volunteer dentists from all over the state are holding a free clinic in Vallejo.

How long has it been since Deborah Kanu of Vallejo last saw a dentist? "Too long" she said.

And It's been too long since many of the hundreds of people here at the Solano County Fairgrounds have seen a dentist, and for many reasons.


"Out of fear, financial, access, I mean there are so many different reasons," said Dr. Richard Nagy. He's an oral surgeon from Santa Barbara and incoming President of the California Dental Association, which sponsors these clinics. He says: "We can't do all of their dental needs so we look at what's the most emergent: something that's causing a lot of pain. Something with a lot of infection that could affect their health."

Dentists will see 1,900 patients or more, between the two days. At the last one in Modesto, 1,700 volunteers did more than 10,000 procedures that would have cost more than $1,500,000. But, here no one pays, and no ID is required. Some patients spent hours out in the cold overnight to get a place in line.

Isokea Owase had some work done: "They want to do some filling and after the filling they'll the cleanings" she said.

We watched as doctors fitted Deborah Kanu with new dentures. "I'm happy, I'm excited, I'm very impressed with this" she said.

Think she's excited? Talk to retired dentist John Swearingen who still volunteers every year, and still gets emotional about it. "What we do in dentistry is transform people's lives, and you have somebody who can't get a job, or can't eat, or is afraid to out in public and you can change their life in an hour and a half," Swearingen said, his voice cracking. That's why he's doing this for the 15th time.

The free clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
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