Hundreds line-up for free dental care in D'Iberville

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) -  The line stretched from the door all the way to Boney Avenue.

"There were cars all up and down, everywhere, and a line of people already," said Gladys Aggerton, describing the scene when she arrived at Dr. Steve Miner's dental office in D'Iberville Friday morning.

"I'm number 149 on the list. I've been here since 6:00 this morning," said Tommy Whitlock of Gulfport.

Some people showed up as early as 3am, hoping for the chance to see the dentist for free.

"I came to get a couple of fillings. If they can't be filled, then extractions," said Aggerton.

"I got four cavities from eating candy," said 11-year-old Jessica Seals of Long Beach.

It was supposed to be Dr. Miner's day off. Instead, he, along with three other dentists and their staff decided to take part in the Dentistry from the Heart program. They offered free fillings and extractions to help people who don't have dental insurance and have been putting up with pain for too long.

"We see patients every day that are having to elect to have teeth taken out because they can't afford to pay to have them saved," said Dr. Steve Miner. "There are so many people in the area that have teeth that are abscessed or can't be fixed. They are walking around with chronic infections. We're just trying to help as many people as we can. It's a very heartwarming experience."

Despite the long wait, the patients appreciated the compassion.

"Oh, this is great. It's a blessing for the community," said John Seals of Long Beach.

For the dentists, offering free smiles to those in need was their early Valentine's Day gift.

"Oh it's been fantastic," said Dr. Peter Ackerman of Ocean Springs. He paused for a moment, then added, "Just the opportunity to give back to the community. Excuse me. I get emotional about it."

"We've had lots of hugs and handshakes and happy smiles," said Dr. Miner.

The program started at 7:30am and ended around 5pm. The dentists treated 65 people, providing more than $35,000 worth of dental work. The national program was founded in 2001 by a dentist in Florida. So far, it has helped over 5,000 patients and provided over $1 million in dental care.