Ten-year-old Jacob Clark recalled his previous visit to a dentist, when he had a tooth pulled.
"It hurt," he said. "Well, it hurt a little."
Nonetheless, Jacob was among those in attendance Sunday for a dental exam and preventive treatment at the first Day of Giving sponsored by the Crescent Community Clinic, Ackley Dental Group and Kiwanis Club, all of Spring Hill.
More than 50 elementary school students were selected through the Hernando School District as both needy and worthy of the service.
"Patients treated here are those who fall through the cracks," said Dr. Eva Ackley, head of the team of four dentists, three hygienists and eight staffers who cajoled and smoothed the way into the dentists' reclining chairs for the young patients.
Some of the children qualify for Medicaid; some are from financially distressed families. None have dental insurance.
Jacob's aunt, Paula Clark of Spring Hill, said she had to tow in the third-grader.
"He didn't have a choice," Clark said.
Jacob admitted that when his aunt announced he was going, he objected.
Although he arrived with a loose baby tooth, perhaps facing another extraction, he stoically declared he wasn't scared.
Aunt Paula told him he would have his teeth cleaned.
But as hygienist Laura Wentworth plied his teeth with the soft-footed, electric-powered cleaning tool, Jacob called out: "It hurts. It hurts."
Wentworth paused and pointed out an X-ray of Jacob's teeth.
Said Jacob: "That's my tooth. It has a hole in it. That's why it hurts."
Wentworth promised Jacob she would proceed cautiously, and the procedure continued uneventfully.
Jodi Little, 5, had visited a dentist once previously, when she was 4.
"She cried and cried. She wouldn't open her mouth," said her mother, Krystal Little of Masaryktown.
After her exam Sunday, during which three small cavities were found, Jodi exited smiling.
"It was good," she said of the cleaning paste. "It tasted like bubble gum."
She held up a gift — a new purple and blue toothbrush.
Five-year-old James West of Spring Hill was excited to come for his exam, said his grandmother, Jackie West, with whom he lives. She said James brushes his teeth "morning and evening."
"We push, push, push on brushing," Jackie West said.
Ackley said it is helpful when kids take good care of their teeth at home.
She said Sunday's clinic didn't turn up anything unusual.
"We found an abscessed molar, a broken molar, cavities," she said.
Still, she said she would like to see Hernando County and the city of Brooksville add fluoride to their water supplies. Statistics show that fluoride in drinking water reduces cavities and hardens teeth, she said.
"This area has a higher decay rate," Ackley said. "(Fluoride) is available in liquid or vitamin form as a prescription, but it must be paid for. You can get it to (people) for pennies if it's in community water."
Ackley said local dentists are preparing to lobby both governmental bodies to consider the measure.
At Sunday's free event, held in conjunction with the national Children's Dental Health Month, the patients and their families enjoyed free hot dogs and burgers, provided by the Kiwanis Club. And the youngsters took home goody bags of soap and other toiletries, plus healthy snacks such as applesauce and pudding cups, provided by People Helping People.
Said nurse Maureen Solimon of Crescent Community Clinic: "We're hoping this will inspire more community partnerships."
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]