Local doctor gives residents hope with free dental care

MATTHEWS –  Dr. Christopher Phelps, owner of Carolinas Dental Center, will provide free dental care to people in need in the community on Nov. 16, a Saturday, at his office in Matthews.

(Above) People wait in line at last year’s event. This year’s free dentistry event will take place on Nov. 16, a Sunday, at the Carolinas Dental Center Matthews office, 428 N. Trade St.

(Above) People wait in line at last year’s event. This year’s free dentistry event will take place on Nov. 16, a Sunday, at the Carolinas Dental Center Matthews office, 428 N. Trade St.

Phelps, who also has an office in Waxhaw, said he was inspired to host the event after seeing Dr. Vincent Monticciolo, dentist and founder of Dentistry From The Heart, speak about the program.

“I felt there was a need for reduced or free dental care” in the area, Phelps said. This is the second year Carolinas Dental Center has hosted a free dentistry event.

Last year’s event, held Dec. 1, 2012, helped more than 200 people. The event was moved to November this year because of staff availability – and because people slept overnight in the parking lot last year, despite frigid temperatures, waiting for the doors to open.

The inaugural event didn’t quite receive the support from the community Phelps had anticipated, he said. But that didn’t deter him. If anything, it motivated him to get his colleagues involved and make the event a staple for Carolinas Dental Center and others in the area.

“If every dentist held a free dentistry day once a year, people not receiving dental care would be a scarce problem,” he said. Last year, Phelps said area doctors watched how the practice held the event to see how it would turn out. This year, Phelps has invited several of his colleagues to work with Carolinas Dental Center to get hands-on experience with the event.

The Nov. 16 event will start at 7 a.m., and Phelps hopes to be done by 5 p.m. – even though last year’s event stretched until 9 p.m. Those who are seen will pick either a tooth extraction or a regular dental cleaning.

“Our plan is to guarantee the first 150 people who show up” will be treated, Phelps said, though the center will try to accommodate more if possible. Numbers will be passed out to all who attend.

The only thing people need to bring is something to keep them occupied while waiting. Phelps warned there will be long wait times, and mentioned one person last year waited 14 hours before being seen.

The nonprofit Dentistry From The Heart started 13 years ago with an event at Monticciolo Family & Sedation Dentistry in New Port Richey, Fla. The agency calls upon dentists, hygienists and volunteers across the world to donate their time and resources to host their own event and give a day of free dental care.

Even though Dentistry From The Heart has grown into a substantial nonprofit, with new events now being offered in Ireland, Australia and Puerto Rico, Monticciolo still hosts his own event. This year’s free dentistry program was Monticciolo’s 12th and was marked by a visit from Tampa’s mayor, as well as other regional figures who took time to express their appreciation for the nonprofit, according to the group’s website.

People who can’t see a dentist should use a fluoride rinse to protect their teeth, Phelps said, as that can kill certain bacteria and help prevent oral problems or slow them down until a dentist can be seen.

The free dentistry event will only be held at the Carolinas Dental Center of Matthews, 428 N. Trade St. The clinic has another office in Waxhaw, 2514 Cuthbertson Road.

Find more information on the event at www.carolinasdentalcenter.com.

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