Rosa Williams of Chester spoke through a clenched jaw. Even though her voice was muffled, there clearly was joy.
“They told me I would look like a princess when it was done,” Williams said. “But I told them I was already a princess, this would make me a queen!”
Williams had two teeth extracted Friday at First Baptist Church of Rock Hill as part of Dental Access Days sponsored by the S.C. Dental Association. More than 1,500 people are expected to have their dental pain eased and their smiles improved at the two-day free clinic.
Williams said the dental surgery will allow her to smile with confidence, which will make a big difference in her job, she said. Williams is a a minister. “This will help with God’s word,” she said.
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Williams was one of hundreds who got treatment on Friday. She had visited on Thursday to get qualified, so when she arrived at 4:30 a.m. Friday, she already had her X-rays and had talked with a dentist about what work could be done.
She was on her way home about 7:15 Friday morning.
Dentists and their staffs came from all over the state to clean teeth, take X-rays, fill cavities and extract teeth. They also did more complicated procedures such as root canals and crowns.
But on the most basic level, the dentists alleviated the pain many had endured for years.
“If you have a toothache, it bothers you every minute, every day,” said Rock Hill dentist Bill Cranford, who helped coordinate the local event. “We’re offering relief, giving them a smile, restoring their dignity.”
Chronic dental pain is among the top five reasons people come to the Piedmont Medical Center emergency department, according to hospital officials. PMC doctors can give a person an antibiotic for the infection and medication for the pain, but they can’t treat the problem. PMC told about 800 emergency room visitors who had been treated for dental pain to come to the Dental Access Days if they could.
Thomas Houser of Clover fell into this category. The former Air Force aircraft mechanic would go to the Veterans Administration for treatment of his gum infections, but the staff there could not treat his teeth.
Houser drove to Rock Hill on his scooter Thursday and spent the night, sleeping on the sidewalk, to be the first person in line on Friday.
“I’ve been praying for this; this is something I’ve needed,” he said.
A long, winding line formed behind Houser on Friday morning as several hundred waited. Immediately behind Houser were Jimmy and Emily Smith of Spartanburg.
Emily had been to a previous clinic in Columbia, where she was 500th in line. This time they made sure to get there early.
Jimmy Smith was hoping to have several teeth that had broken off at the gum line pulled. He said the teeth had been a problem since 1995 “when I was the victim in a violent crime.” He hoped to have the teeth pulled so he could get dentures.
Getting there early was essential as patients are seen on a first-come, first served basis. Services will close when the clinic reaches capacity.
The clinic is open Saturday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.