For the fourth consecutive year, Dr. Tom Novak is putting his money where your mouth is.
Novak is hosting a day of free dental work on Friday that is part of the Dentistry from the Heart (DFTH) initiative, a nationwide movement to help those who may otherwise not be able to afford dental care.
DFTH will provide a free cleaning, tooth extraction or filling to each patient 18 and older at no cost or obligation. Patients will be seen on a first-come, first-serve basis from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Office Manager Michelle Ballard said about 100 patients were seen last year, with 101 procedures (62 extractions, 19 fillings and 20 cleanings) done at a total estimated cost of $30,000.
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“The people that we see on that day are neighbors, co-workers and friends,” Novak said about the free clinic. “It’s incredibly heart-warming for us to be able to provide such an effective and efficient answer to such a widespread local problem.
"There's an obvious under-served need that goes untreated and unrecognized and even though several dentists and myself participate in the free dental clinic in Parker County; this is just one way where we can see a lot of people, help out quite a bit and do it in a pretty effective and efficient way."
Novak said the need is "always out there" but has grown in recent years, for various reasons.
"People are out of work or whatever else and you get people who can't afford to get stuff done," he said. "I suppose that contributes to a lot of people [not going to the dentist]."
At last year's DFTH, Ballard said people lined up beginning around 4 p.m. the Thursday before just to make sure they would be seen. She added that by 8 a.m. the day of the event, there were already 78 people waiting.
“We started letting patients know [around 11 a.m.] that if they needed anything other than a cleaning that there was a chance they might not be seen but that we’d do the best we could,” she said. “But we didn’t turn anybody away from getting at least a cleaning.”
A second doctor, Dr. Brad McConnell, D.D.S, helped Novak throughout the day and will be doing so again this year, along with Dr. Eric Wear from Fort Worth. Other area dentists loaned Novak dental tools to help speed up the amount of patients that could be seen.
"[They've] loaned me instruments because a lot of this stuff has to be sterilized when you're done using it and that takes time," Novak said before the event. "A lot of people have been really nice about letting us use some additional stuff. You have to turn people over quickly so you have to have fresh stuff."
Ballard said people should plan to bring chairs, snacks and something to pass the time. Also, patients should dress appropriately for whatever the weather may be that day. Wal-Mart, Brookshire's and Little Caesar’s will be providing water and other items throughout the day to both volunteers and patients and portable toilets are being furnished by Go-To-Go, same as the past few years.
“The majority of the services provided were extractions to those in pain,” Ballard said. “We felt like we accomplished a lot in the day and patients were very appreciative.”
As to why he decided to host the free clinic, Novak said it's just a way to give back to the community.
"It's the most rewarding day we have all year," he said. "If you can fix something that's broken, swollen or hurting, that's just a good deal.
"This is nice because we're not worried about money, we're not worried about insurance, we just fix it and go."
For more information on the clinic, visit www.tomthedentist.com or call 817-594-7302. Novak’s office is located at 362 S. Waco Street in Weatherford.