It is 9 a.m. on Friday the 13th, and the whine of many dentist drills cannot be ignored.
“I’m scared,” Kelly Witcher says as she waits in line. On the other side of a white curtain, volunteer dentists are filling the cavities of teeth that can be saved and pulling the ones that can’t as part of the Roanoke Mission of Mercy Project, which provides free dental care to the poor and uninsured.
Witcher has already been to the mobile X-ray truck, parked outside the Roanoke Civic Center, where it became clear that a number of her teeth are so decayed they must be extracted.
“Maybe eight, it looks like,” she says.
But for all the dread that might come with a long-delayed trip to the dentist, Witcher is like most of the other patients: grateful to receive care they cannot afford, and eager to be rid of the pain that brought them here.
The clinic, which continues today at the civic center, is expected to treat 800 people in need of cleanings, fillings, extractions, dentures and other dental work.