Hundreds of hopeful and needy people lined up anxiously outside Cal Expo for free dental services Friday in what's become a dubious tradition in this do-without economy: another big-tent, Mâ¢ Aâ¢ Sâ¢ H-style health care bonanza -- this time exclusively for oral care.
Inside Cal Expo's cavernous Buildings C and D, the California Dental Association had assembled a cadre of volunteer dentists and their crews for what's called CDA Cares, a two-day free clinic that organizers hope will serve 1,500 to 2,000 people.
Yolanda Kinsey, 47, was just one of the patients crying tears of joy as dentists were fitting her for dentures.
"I'm grateful, really grateful," said Kinsey, of Sacramento. "For people to have the heart to do this is awesome. I feel really blessed to even be a part of it."
Seated beside Kinsey was James Maxwell, 61, of East Sacramento, also getting a new set of dentures. Maxwell had his last four teeth pulled back when Medi-Cal still covered dental services in 2009.
He's been waiting years to receive replacement teeth because he can't afford the $800 his HMO wants to charge him.
"Now I can go outside of my house," Maxwell said. "I can go out to eat, I can smile. I've been housebound for all these years."
While a lucky few were getting new teeth, dozens of others were getting their teeth X-rayed, examined, filled, cleaned and extracted.
Recipients of care also received instructions on good oral care, and bags filled with toothbrushes, mouthwash, floss and information on how to seek follow-up services.
This was the second "CDA Cares" event in California; the first as held in Modesto in May and treated 1,650 people.
While CDA President Daniel Davidson, a dentist from the Bay Area, was observing the flow of the event, he made a point that most of the procedures could have been prevented with good oral health habits.
"This is not a system of care," Davidson said. "This is a symptom of a lack of care."
The event will continue Saturday, opening its doors at 5:30 a.m.
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