D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - Dental care can get pretty expensive for people who can't afford it or don't have insurance. On Friday, four South Mississippi dentists and their staff provided dental services absolutely free.
The "Dentistry from the Heart" event always draws a big crowd every year around Valentine's Day. Patients emerged showing off their pearly whites.
"I got a pretty smile. They did my front teeth that were really bad and got them filled and pretty," said Bonnie Watkiss of Biloxi.
"I got my tooth out. It's been hurting for about a week. I got it out for free. They're good people," shouted a man as he left the clinic.
Dozens of people lined-up in front of Dr. Steve Miner's clinic in D'Iberville, waiting for their time in the dental chair. They came from as far away as Lucedale and Lumberton. Carol Gonzalez of Lumberton showed up pretty early.
"Since about 7:00 this morning, because it's first come, first served," she said.
They came with different dental needs. Eleven-year-old Desiree Moran showed her teeth and said, "I got one crooked. I got one behind it. They hurt really bad."
"I'm getting married in a few months and I want to have a nice smile for the wedding," said Glenda Walker of Biloxi. Walker said she was always embarrassed about her teeth's condition.
For four years now, Dr. Miner has provided free services to those in need, mainly fillings and extractions.
"I really enjoy doing it," said Dr. Miner. "Our goal is to try to help people get out of pain, so it doesn't interfere with their lifestyle."
Three other dentists and their staff also donated their time and talents.
"I'm happy to be here, really," said Dr. Paul Lim, a Seabee Base dentist. "I saw the line waiting for us this morning and we were like, 'Oh, let's hurry up, go in there, and see as many patients as we can to help them out."'
Everyone who came appreciated the gift of a free smile and a stronger confidence.
"He's doing all this to help the people. There are so many people with toothaches and pains and it's just awesome that he's doing this for free," said Melody Moran of Lucedale. "I don't hear of anybody else doing that. I just think it's wonderful."
"Oh, it's wonderful. I could never afford to pay for it myself, and to have someone just give out of their hearts like that is just awesome," said Watkiss.
"People travel for two to four hours to get down here, so that in itself tells you that there's a tremendous amount of need for something like this," said Dr. Miner. "One of the hardest things we have to do is turn people away, because we have limited resources and the amount of time."
Since 2009, Dr. Miner and his volunteers have treated 231 people, providing more than $96,000 worth of dental treatments.