Cary Magazine June 2012 – Dentistry From the Heart

Smile — It’s Free

A SMILE has the power to light up a room. But sometimes that smiles needs a little bit of work.

In the past three years, Cary Magazine has teamed up with Dr. Allan Acton to offer the Cary Smile Makeover. Three deserving women each received a complete smile overhaul. This year though, Dr. Acton set his sights a bit higher.

Acton opened his Cary Family Dental office to the community one Saturday in April to host Dentistry from the Heart. He worked with the national nonprofit organization to offer a day of free dental care to more than 150 local people.

“With the Cary Smile Makeover we were really able to transform on person’s life with their smile. But Dentistry from the Heart in some wasy meant more to me, because we were able to affect so many people’s live,” Dr. Acton said. “Even if we weren’t able to totally transform their smile, we were able to get them out of pain or help them save some money. I hade some of my patients who even stayed in line to save $350. That’s a car payment.”

Attendees were able to receive a filling, extraction or cleaning at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis. The first person arrived at 4:30 p.m. on Friday to get in line. By 7 a.m. Saturday, the parking lot was packed with more than 100 people — most of whom lived within a 10-mile radius of the office.

Nine other dentists volunteered their services, including a school friend of Dr. Acton’s who flew in from Colorado to participate. Dental students, hygienists and others also staffed the event, with a total of 35 additional volunteers who made the day possible. In all, $46,025 in services were given away.

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“The mood was incredible. People were very sweet to us. We got a couple thank-you notes in the mail later thanking us for what we did,” Dr. Acton said. And some even thanked a higher power: “I had one woman who prayed with me.”

Some camped out to seek relief from nagging toothaches they couldn’t afford to fix. Others were simply grateful to receive a long overdue dentist visit without worrying about the bill.

Alex Causey, a native Caryite, arrived at 4 a.m. to get in line for a filling. The day came at just the right time for her — “I just lost my dental insurance,” she said.

Joyce Williams hadn’t been to a dentist in “six or seven years” and needed a cleaning. After taking her father to a separate Dentistry from the Heart event last fall, she jumped at the chance to bring her own dental care up to date.

Rene Portillo volunteered as a Spanish translator to do his part — after receiving a bit of free dental care himself. They were just a small fraction of the people who left that day with a smile.

After starting work at 7 a.m., Dr. Acton was scheduled to close up shop at 5 p.m. However he made time for one more patient, a cancer survivor who had shown up at 7 a.m. with her oxygen tank in tow. “I stayed longer so I could see her and get a tooth that had been bothering her for weeks out,” he said.

Dr. Acton’s goodwill didn’t stop when the final patient was sent home on April 14. Cary Family Dental is participating in its seventh year of the Smiles for Life program through June 30. The initiative raises money for children’s charities around the country by donating 100 percent of the proceeds of reduced-cost whitening services. To date, Cary Family Dental has raised about $65,000.

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1. As the sun rises April 14 at Cary Family Dentistry, people line up to receive free dental care through Dentistry from the Heart. 2. Cary Family Dental’s Dr. Allen Acton hosted the free dental care event. Ten area dentists volunteered their time for the daylong event. 3. More than 100 people were already in line when the clinic opened at 7 a.m. 4. Dr. Robert Niles treats a patient. 5. Some in the line arrived the day before the event. 6. Patients received extractions, fillings or cleanings. 7. Cary resident Ruth Vojdani gives an interview to hygienist Catherine Satterwhite following a free teeth cleaning. 8. Morrisville resident Julianna Patterson shows off the T-shirt given to her while waiting line. Patterson, along with her mother, Suzanne, arrived at midnight the night before in order to be at the front of a long line.
WRITTEN BY TARA CROFT
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JONATHAN FREDIN