BROOKSVILLE — They began lining up at least two hours before sunup Saturday.
Folks, many of whom hadn't seen a dentist in years, and suffering with toothaches, abscesses and worse, waited patiently while Dr. Douglas Roth, his staff and a host of volunteers began preparing for the busy day ahead.
For the next 10 hours, Roth, owner of Denture Care Center on Powell Road, and another dentist saw more than 120 patients free of charge. For people like Bruce Wilkey, whose abscessed molar had been hurting for weeks, it was a godsend.
"Normally, I would have done something about it by now," said Wilkey, 28, who works as a restaurant cook. "But it's tough coming up with the money these days. I'm just glad these folks are doing this. It's helping a lot of people out."
Sandy Roth, Dr. Roth's wife, said the idea behind "A Day of Free Dentistry" belongs to her husband, who she said was inspired last year by a TV program about free clinics in South America. Last year's effort served 55 clients over a 10-hour period, she said.
"With the economy the way it, is we felt there's a real need to offer this to people that don't have the means to get dental care," she said. "My husband is one of those people who can't stand to see somebody suffer needlessly."
Mrs. Roth said Saturday's mission revolved primarily around providing urgent care for people with severe pain and discomfort.
"Our hope is to get them to a point where they're at least comfortable and no longer in pain," she said. "The toughest thing about it is knowing that we'll probably turn away almost as many as we've taken in."
Brooksville resident Richard Smith, an unemployed construction worker who hadn't seen a dentist in eight years, said he arrived at the practice Friday night to put his name on the waiting list. Several of his bottom teeth had decayed to a point where he doubted they were salvageable.
"They're pretty bad," said Smith. "Right now, I just want the ones that hurt to be gone."
Like last year, Roth's nine-person staff volunteered their day off to take part in the effort. Additional help came from Brooksville dentist Ram Setlur, as well as two additional dental assistants from other area practices.
The Florida Veterans Mobile Service Center bus, equipped with dental X-ray equipment, served as a triage and consultation area for patients. Afterward, patients were sent inside for treatment by the dentists.
Staff member Debbie Skinnard said those who received treatment were gracious.
"For a lot of them, going to a dentist is a huge luxury," she said. "And it makes you feel good to know that you're able to give someone something that they truly need."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.