The Dental Hygiene Clinic at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith offered free tooth extractions Saturday.
This is the fourth year for the event but the second year for it to be held at the university.
Dr. Mitzi Efurd, executive director of the UAFS Dental Hygiene program, said the clinic treated 175 patients at the event last year. She said this year, they hope to treat 200 patients.
Free Extraction Day was founded by Dr. Charles Liggett who has a dental practice in Fort Smith. After volunteering his expertise on mission trips to Jamaica, he recognized a need for similar services in town.
"Just seeing people coming into the office that really can’t afford to have the treatment done, can’t afford the medicine that they need, you know, can’t even afford the gas to get here,” said Dr. Liggett.
Dr. Wes Borengasser, who was just one of 18 dentists volunteering their time, said living with an abscessed tooth can be borderline unbearable.
"A lot of times if you get a dental abscess, you have tooth pain, it wakes you at night, it swells, it hurts all the time, they can`t eat, they can`t chew, they can`t function a lot of times and what we are doing is taking those teeth out for them so they can get some relief and actually enjoy the holidays," said Dr. Borengasser.
Tooth extractions can be painful both physically and on the wallet; but Vincent Deatherage, who got a tooth extraction Saturday, said it's worth it in the end.
'It`s definitely important," Deatherage said. "You may go through a little bit of pain when you have a tooth extracted but it`s not nearly as bad as a bad tooth ache so I am more than happy to have this done."
Dr. Efurd said the cost for a simple extraction can start at $100. She said more complicated situations can cost hundreds of dollars.
“Around the holidays, money’s always tight so any little bit that you can save, any expenses that you don’t have are going to help you to provide better for your family during Christmas,” said Dr. Liggett.
Symptoms of an infected tooth which may require extraction include constant pain, swelling in the mouth and lymph nodes, and drainage in the mouth.
"This is an opportunity for them to be out of pain for the holidays," said Dr. Efurd.
As the president of the Fort Smith Dental Association, Dr. Liggett called upon some of his colleagues to help out with the event.
“We are so lucky in Fort Smith," said Dr. Liggett. "We have such a great group of dentists. This year I have 17 other dentists that are coming to help.”
All of the dentists, hygienists, staff and students will be volunteering their time to treat patients Saturday. Students from the dental hygiene program will be administering local anesthesia, assisting doctors and taking medical history and blood pressure.
"Everybody will be busy doing something," said Dr. Efurd.
All are welcome. Patients will be seen on a first come, first serve basis, and treatment is limited to one tooth extraction per person.
Dr. Efurd suggests those interested in getting a tooth extracted arrive early and be prepared to wait. Patients should bring a list of their current medications.
The event will run from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on the first floor of the Pendergraft Health Sciences Center on Waldron Road.