More than 325 East Texans braced a chilly morning, waiting hours in line at Smith Dental Care on Saturday to take advantage of a once-a-year program — Dentistry From The Heart.
Dr. Roy Smith, owner of the practice, said he was inspired to start the program in East Texas after having gone on mission trips to Belize and Honduras, where he provided dental care for people there.
It occurred to him, he said, that many people in Tyler needed dental care. He also wanted to give his staff a chance to give back to the community.
“Truthfully, they enjoy it as much or more than I do,” he said. “It was for the community, but it was also for my staff, to enjoy helping people.”
In the first years of the program, he said, it was just him and Dr. Ron Murlock providing dental care. Now they have 10 dentists providing care.
“We were just exhausted (back then),” Smith said. “Then we gradually added more and more dentists. Now, it’s not as stressful.”
Dr. Brian Jackson, who has been providing his services at the annual event for four years, said he enjoys giving back to the East Texas community.
“It’s just great to be able to give back,” he said. “Anytime you get this many people together to give back and do things for others, it’s just very nice.”
Cindy Bristow, of Flint, who waited from 5:30 a.m. to about 9:30 a.m., went in for a filling.
Bristow said she has come to the event for seven years now. She said she relies on the program to keep her teeth healthy.
Andrea L. Jackson, of Tyler, also said she relies on similar programs to get semi-regular dental care. She was grateful for the dentists who gave their time and services, she said.
“When I saw it on the news, I was like, ‘That’s awesome, I need to go,’” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing that they’re doing here.”