A cavity was all it took to make Andrea Silvey's life nearly unbearable. For three months she was in such pain that she could barely eat or sleep. The infection in her tooth kept her head throbbing constantly. No dentist would touch her without her first handing over a fistful of money.
Silvey is one of the 100 million Americans without dental insurance. She'd lost hope back in 2008 when the $200 it cost to extract the menacing tooth was completely out of her reach — she had no job and was on disability. That's when she saw a segment on the news about Dentistry from the Heart.
The nonprofit organization was started by Dr. Vincent Monticciolo in 2001 and offers free dental work for those in need. Dentists around the country host the events, and have helped more than 25,000 people, worth $5.5 million in dental work. Silvey attended Dr. Zachary Hodgins' event at his office in Winter Park, and said goodbye to the painful tooth.
Hodgins even called her the next day, a Sunday, to see if she was feeling better.
"It restored my faith in humanity. In a few days I was back to normal — I could sleep, eat and had no headaches," Silvey said.
On Saturday, Feb. 6, Hodgins will host his third Dentistry from the Heart event to add to the 250 people he's helped already. A team of six dentists and six hygienists will provide free fillings, extractions and cleanings for the first 80 adults there, or however many more they can see between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. The service is available to anyone and there is no income threshold.
Hodgins said that while the events have always been important, the current economic situation magnifies the need for it. The patients he treats on this day range from the homeless to people who have recently lost their jobs. And what would normally cost hundreds of dollars, something people might skip due to finances, is free.
"The saying you get what you pay for does not apply in this situation," said Silvey about her experience. "They treated me like a millionaire."
And she wasn't the only one to get the champagne and caviar dental treatment.
When Silvey went in 2008, she was shocked when after she'd made the hour drive from her home in Poinciana to Winter Park to arrive at 5 a.m., there was already a line of people surrounding the office.
Some even camped out from the night before to get their shot at healthy teeth and relief from pain. By 7 a.m. there were around 150 people waiting, Hodgins said. He and the three other dentists worked from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. that first year. It's a long day, but Hodgins said he looks forward to it all year.
"It's got to be the most rewarding day of the year for me," Hodgins said. "I feel great; it's one of my favorite days to be a dentist."
The office's zest for the day equals that of Hodgins', said Erika Nall, a member of Hodgins' team and the event's organizer.
"There are no words to explain it. It gives you the warm fuzzies," she said.
Dentistry from the Heart will be hosted at Dr. Hodgins' office, The Dentist's Studio, located at 1350 Orange Ave. in Winter Park from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6.
For more information, call 407-647-1744. Free fillings, extractions and cleanings will be offered to adults.