One day left for a shot at free dental care in Abilene

ABILENE, Texas - Saturday marks the last day people will have a chance to get free dental care at the Abilene Civic Center. 

The Texas Mission of Mercy organized the free care and volunteers, including volunteer dentists, began seeing patients early Friday morning.

"We're basically here to pull teeth, to fill teeth and to clean teeth," said Don Lutes, DDS.

Lutes has been practicing dentistry for more than 30 years and traveled from Mt. Pleasant to volunteer his expertise in Abilene. He has volunteered in dental health missions for 13 years.

Abilene dentist Chris Proctor said this is his first year volunteering.

"There's still just a population of people that are, you know, badly in need and for one reason or another don't have access to get care and this is just one way for people to know that the dental community does care about those people," Proctor said.

"Most people would rather have a baby than have a toothache," Lutes said.

Speaking of babies, a booth has been set up to teach children about brushing and flossing.

Volunteers hope to treat about 1,000 or more patients--made possible by about $75,000 in donations from local organizations.

Shea Woodard Hall, who has volunteered her time as the community chair for the Abilene TMOM effort, was responsible for seeking out the local donations. She said Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald and City Manager Larry Gilley donated the Abilene Civic Center to the cause and Highland Church of Christ donated close to $20,000 worth of food.

Patients seeking treatment are asked to bring their current medications along with them.

Doors open at 6 a.m. on Saturday; however, treatment will be on a first-come, first-serve basis and patients will be turned away once full capacity is reached.

Some pre-existing health conditions can disqualify potential patients since the mission is designed for basic care and not in a hospital setting. 

More information can be found at the Texas Mission of Mercy.

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