Hundreds Flock to Free Dental Clinic in Laurel

Former patient: 'When I meet the customers, I'm able to smile bigger'

Hundreds of people are taking advantage of a free dental clinic in Laurel, Md., where more than 300 dentists, hygienists and pharmacists are volunteering Friday and Saturday.

News4 stopped by the clinic to talk to patients at St. Vincent Pallotti High School, where a gymnasium was transformed into into a dental office.

The clinic, which is offered for adults only, is offering everything from cleanings to fillings to extractions for those who can't afford dental work. The event is sponsored by Catholic Charities and the Maryland Department of Oral Health.

Lines snaked outside as would-be patients waited to get in the chair for much-needed dental work.

"I had to get my teeth done. I had cavities, and I had to get some fillings done," said Josh Ritchie.

He said he was grateful -- even thought his visit means getting a root canal. "I'm actually kind of excited, because this tooth has been bothering me for awhile," he said.

Many people Friday were in similar situations, and the dentists were happy to help.

"There are patients coming in here that have not seen a dentist in 10 or 15 years," said one volunteer. "Some people have never been to a dentist at all. Some people are in their 20s and they're getting all their teeth extracted, and it's terrible."

Darcy Hayes is a volunteer now, but in March, she was unemployed and attended a similar event as a patient. The dental work gave her the confidence to land a new job, she said.

"I work for Hallmark marketing, and I'm very happy. When I meet the customers, I'm able to smile bigger," she said. "Before, you know, you kind of shy away."

Hayes was missing several teeth when she was paired with Dr. Leon Katz. A drastic difference was made in just a few minutes.

"I came in, I didn't have the top teeth," she said.

"She had two crowns in the front, and the crowns over here were gone, and the crowns over here were gone," Katz chimed in, gesturing to each side of her mouth.

Hayes smiled in response, displaying her beautiful new smile.

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