Dr. Fred Smith and dental assistant Kelly Yates prepare to work on Frank Dawson. The Dental Bus is visiting Winston-Salem this week through a sponsorship by Calvary Baptist Church. The bus, which has two dentist chairs, visited Samaritan Ministries on Monday, the Rescue Mission on Tuesday and the Salvation Army on Wednesday.
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Travis Clark didn't have to go to the dentist this week — the dentist came to him.
Clark is less than two weeks away from completing a yearlong anti-addiction program at The Rescue Mission.
He was having some problems with his teeth but didn't have dental insurance or the money to see a private dentist. But he got the services he needed when the Dental Bus and its volunteer dental professionals came to assist residents of The Rescue Mission.
"They did a great job," said Clark, who had a filling in one tooth and had another tooth extracted. "I was in real bad pain — sometimes it would come and go."
The bus travels to service agencies across the state with a rotating crew of volunteer dental professionals to provide care to people who otherwise could not afford it. The bus is a ministry of N.C. Baptist Men.
In 2009, the Dental Bus treated 4,886 patients statewide. The bus — which has two dentists chairs at opposite ends — is visiting Winston-Salem agencies this week through a sponsorship of Calvary Baptist Church. The bus visited Samaritan Ministries on Monday, the Rescue Mission on Tuesday and the Salvation Army on Wednesday.
There will a different dentist each day. On Tuesday morning, Dr. Fred Smith — a dentist in private practice here who plans to retire next month — was taking care of patients such as Clark.
Smith said he enjoys working with the people on the bus and likes the ministry aspect of reaching out to people in need.
"They're people who feel like they don't have a place in this world," he said. "Hopefully this makes them feel valuable as people."
Dan Parsons, executive director of The Rescue Mission, said people in shelters face barriers to going to the dentist, including a lack of money, lack of transportation and worry over their physical appearance. Some have never been to a dentist. Parsons said the bus eliminates those problems by bringing the free service to the residents.
The Rescue Mission, at 710 N. Trade St., offers a free dental clinic on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month that is open to anyone who can't afford dental care. Parsons said the clinic does mostly extractions, while the bus offers expanded services, including fillings and cleanings.
"It's exciting because it's another way we can show God's love to these men," he said.
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