Hundreds line up for free dental care clinic in uptown

by: Andrew Doud Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The North Carolina Missions of Mercy opened a free dental care clinic at the convention center in uptown early Friday morning.

On Friday night, officials with the clinic said they had reached capacity and were treating those already inside the building and given a number. Officials are now turning away people coming to the center.

Jonathan Newsome was one of the first few hundred people there. He was looking for relief from severe mouth pain.

"I don't have any dental insurance," Newsome said. "I don't have any kind of insurance at all and this is the only way I can get my teeth fixed."

Newsome's problem is a common one for thousands of people.

For the next 36 hours, dentists are expected to see thousands of people without dental insurance. More than 800 people, including dentists and other volunteers, will be working around the clock.

Many people lined up late Thursday night and early Friday. Because of the cold temperatures, organizers began letting people inside the convention center overnight.

More than 1,000 people had already arrived when the clinic opened at 6 a.m. Each was given a wrist band with a number, then had to wait.

Rows of chairs lined the convention center floor while others brought blankets and pillows to camp out, waiting for their number to be called.

Dr. Evan Miller said last year the free clinic helped 2,145 people. He expected a crowd close to that number again.

The clinic is free to patients and is paid for through private funds and donated materials.

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