by: Tenikka Smith Updated:
ROCK HILL, S.C. - Donna Garcia's family was in the line that gathered outside First Baptist Church in Rock Hill in the wee hours of the morning, hoping to make it inside for a free two-day dental clinic.
By sunrise, she was guaranteed a spot.
Garcia doesn't have insurance. She doesn't work because she has to take care of her son and disabled husband. To get relief from dental pain over the years, she ended up pulling teeth that she couldn't afford to have repaired.
It left her smile and self-esteem broken.
"They asked what I would like and I said, ‘A smile.’ I haven't had one in eight years," said Garcia, through tears.
Garcia is one of about 1,500 people expected to get life-changing dental work over the next two days. More than 200 dental professionals and students from South Carolina are volunteering their time to work on patients at the free clinic sponsored by the South Carolina Dental Association.
“It's helping people get their smile back, get them out of pain, get them functioning in society and help them get back on their feet,” said Rock Hill dentist Bill Cranford.
Joyce Deforrest's cheeks were still puffy from her dental work when she talked to Channel 9. She said it was worth spending the night at the church in her truck for the chance to get repairs on her teeth, which were shattered after she was crushed by horses last year.
"To be able to smile again means everything," Deforrest said.
For every smile dentists repaired, joy was restored as well.
Reflecting on her new smile, Garcia said, "I can't wait!"
Dentists expect to treat another 700 to 800 people Saturday. Doors open at 6 a.m. and the clinic close at 3 p.m. Organizers said the earlier you arrive, the better chance you have of getting treatment.
Patients overcome with emotion at free dental clinic in Rock Hill
Heavy rain, strong winds remain threats as storm system moves toward Carolinas
Chase, crash shuts down highway in Concord, troopers say
Man shot 8 times, killed in Chesterfield County, deputies say
Severe weather kills 15 in Georgia and Mississippi, death toll could rise