Hundreds of people are headed to see the dentist for free this weekend. It's all part of a two-day event called Arkansas Mission of Mercy.
The event began at 6 a.m. Friday (May 16) at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale and will continue Saturday. Dozens of people camped out overnight to be first in line to receive free dental work.
James Spriggs, of Rogers, is in the process of buying dental insurance. He said he hadn't seen the dentist in a couple of years.
"I'm just very grateful that there are so many dentists, hygienists and volunteers that have come out to do this," Spriggs said. "I mean you can help somebody out, it makes them feel good, makes me feel good. I just want to be able to pay this back someway myself."
This is the eighth year for the Arkansas Mission of Mercy to offer the free dental clinic. More than 100 chairs are set up to see patients. Since 2007, more than 12,000 people have been treated during the event.
Dr. Don Perkins, of Forrest City, said it's a privilege for him to be part of this event.
"I've worked in numbing most of the time, which is what part the patient hates the most and after giving them several injections, they get up and hug me and say 'thank you,'" Perkins said. "So that makes it all worthwhile."
It's estimated volunteers have donated nearly six million dollars in dental care. Dentists and other volunteers will see adults and children on a first-come first-serve basis. Services being offered include cleanings, fillings, and extractions.
Dr. Terry Fiddler, executive director, said he can relate to the patients.
"All the folks that are hurting and needing, why wouldn't a person give back?" Dr. Fiddler said. "I was one of those people growing up and so I understand where they are."
Volunteers from all over the state are in Springdale to help with the free dental clinic. The clinic is paid for by several sponsors including the Walmart Foundation and a $100,000 grant from the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation.