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Dentists work to provide free dental care

By by Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
June 22, 2012 at 1:22 a.m.
Updated June 23, 2012 at 1:23 a.m.

Dentists work on patients in the cafeteria of Liberty Academy on Friday. The Texas Mission of Mercy dental clinic will continue Saturday.

Dentists work on patients in the cafeteria of Liberty Academy on Friday. The Texas Mission of Mercy dental clinic will continue Saturday.   Dianna Wray for The Victoria Advocate

Dr. David Heinrich peered into Jason Godwin's mouth, matching his tooth for a crown.

Godwin leaned back in his chair, his eyes glancing around as dentists worked on other patients filling cavities, pulling teeth, performing root canals or simply giving their molars and incisors a good cleaning.

The cafeteria of Liberty Academy was alive with the buzzing and whirring of dentistry on Friday afternoon. Dentists had been working for hours, examining teeth and giving their time and skill to fix people's teeth for free as a part of the Texas Mission of Mercy, a statewide organization that came to Victoria to offer free dental care to anyone who needs it.

The organization has been working for the past 11 years to provide free dental care across the state. It has had more than 23,000 patients and given more than $17 million in care, said Dr. Michael Giesler.

Dr. Charles Rader has been working with the group for years. He and co-chairwoman Dr. Lisa Heinrich-Null raised more than $30,000 and organized the two-day event, Rader said.

People began lining up about 5 p.m. Thursday to ensure they'd be seen by the dentists, Rader said.

Godwin and his girlfriend drove to Victoria from Austin. They started waiting in line about 4:30 a.m. Friday.

Godwin, a retail manager, said it was worth waiting to get the dental work done.

"It's a really great thing they're doing," he said.

Heinrich, a dentist in Fredericksburg, was born and raised in Victoria. He and his siblings, who all grew up to become dentists, were glad to help those in need in their hometown, he said.

"You should always give back to your community in some way," he said.

Rader said they'll see more than 300 patients on Friday, but noted there are still some openings for Saturday.

There are no requirements to qualify for dental work, people just have to come down and get in line. They want to help as many people as they can, Rader said.

Rader grinned, surveying the room as dentists worked on their patients.

"It's such a great feeling," he said. "It's like nothing else in the world, getting to be a part of it."



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