Rarely do Dr. Allan Acton’s patients hug him.
More often, they’re weary of him and others in his profession.
“I hear people say all the time that they hate coming to the dentist,” said Acton, a dentist and founder of Cary Family Dental.
But, for one day each of the past three years, he has received an outpouring of appreciation. And it’ll happen again this weekend.
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Cary Family Dental plans to host its fourth annual Dentistry From the Heart event at 7 a.m. Saturday at its office on 1149 Kildaire Farm Road. The practice is offering a free tooth extraction, filling or cleaning for adults 18 and older who bring a valid form of identification.
“We get hugs,” Acton said. “It’s the best day of the year.”
Cary Family Dental plans to serve patients on a first-come, first-come basis. The practice, which guarantees that the first 100 people will be seen, plans to serve patients through 5 p.m.
In addition to providing free treatment, Cary Family Dental will offer free t-shirts and toothbrushes to the first 200 patients in line.
Cary Family Dental provides the services, offices and supplies while Dentistry From the Heart, a Florida-based nonprofit, offers volunteers and logistical services.
Those who show up will be asked to fill out a medical history form while waiting in line. The dental team will then treat patients through a two-step process.
Dental experts will first examine each patient’s mouth to determine the best treatment. The team will then ask patients to wait again before one of 10 dentists fixes the problem in a treatment room.
Cary Family Dental has offered more than $150,000 worth of services since its first Dentistry From the Heart day in 2012.
“Some of (the patients) have really teared up and cried because they’re so happy to not have pain anymore,” said Beth Hertrick, practice administrator for the office.
People often have lingering tooth problems that they can’t afford to have fixed, Acton said, so some go to great lengths to fix it for free. People commonly camp out overnight in front of the dental office to secure a spot at the front of the line.
“One year there was a guy out there at four in the afternoon on Friday,” Hertrick said.
Acton has pulled teeth, fixed chipped teeth and even removed wisdom teeth in particularly dire cases, he said.
“I’ve had people that have walked 10 miles to come because they weren’t on a bus line,” Acton said.
The Cary Family Dental staff also looks forward to the event. Its 25-person staff counts down to the event on its website – www.carydental.com/dfth – and with a calendar in its reception area.
“Why else did we go into this profession?” Hertrick said. “Because we want to help people.”
If you go
Cary Family Dental plans to offering a free tooth extraction, filling or cleaning for adults 18 and older who bring a valid form of identification to its office at 1149 Kildaire Farm Road on Saturday, April 18. For details, go to www.carydental.com/dfth.
Parking won’t be available at the practice, so organizers are asking that patients provide their own transportation and find parking elsewhere. Organizers also are encouraging patients to dress for the weather and bring chairs and snacks while they wait outside.