By Pat Caldwell

The Enterprise

VALE – It was nearly noon on Saturday and already Atkinson Dental office manager Hillary Morales’s day was busy.

And getting busier by the moment.

That’s because Morales and the rest of the staff at Atkinson Dental had kicked off a free service day for area residents. The event was held Nov. 19.

Even a cursory glance at the waiting room showed Atkinson Dental was a popular place as three people – two men and a woman – waited patiently to get their teeth checked. As the day went on, people drifted in, in ones and twos.

“So far, we’ve seen 30,” Morales said late that morning. “And we expect 60.”

Eventually, the staff checked the teeth of 50 people.

Atkinson Dental offered at no charge one extraction with an X-ray, one filling, or one basic cleaning.

Dentist Jacob Atkinson said he knew as soon as he arrived Saturday the event was going to be popular.

“We had a line this morning,” he said.

Morales said the free dental day was crucial for many.

“We have a need for free health care and a lot of patients asked recently to do it. A lot of plans don’t include dental insurance. Dental insurance is not necessarily available for adults,” Morales said.

A full staff was on hand for the event, including two hygienists, two assistants and front office employees. Even Morales’ sister, Holly Keller, helped at the front desk.

“I didn’t want to leave my sister in a bind,” Keller said.

Morales said the event, while free for patients, isn’t without cost. Donations from sponsors helped. Those sponsors included Norco, Miracle Eatery, Selco Community Credit Union, Live a Good Life, Patterson Dental, and Logan’s Market.

“All of our time is volunteer,” Morales said. “All of our materials were donated.”

Atkinson, born and raised in Ontario, said the free dental day was a way to show his appreciation.

“The community has been good to me and I decided to give back,” he said.

Atkinson, who has practiced since 2008, said operating a dental practice in a rural area is exactly what he wanted.

“I do like it and I have a great staff,” he said.

Morales said her dental office plans to continue the free dental days, though plans aren’t certain.

Morales said the dental event is important.

“A lot of people don’t realize the need for dental care,” Morales said.

Dr. Jacob Atkinson checks Vale resident Abril Mitchell’s teeth during Atkinson Dental’s recent free dental day. Dr. Jacob Atkinson checks Vale resident Abril Mitchell’s teeth during Atkinson Dental’s recent free dental day.