Some people camp out all night in parking lots for concert tickets or Black Friday sales.
For others, all-nighters are less about amusement and more about essentials. Some are just trying to keep their teeth.
Eager patients camped out Friday night to secure a spot in the dentist’s chair Saturday at Hagerstown Smiles Dental Care’s Dentistry from the Heart event.
Roughly 65 volunteers — dentists, oral surgeons and dental hygienists among them — offered free dental services to adults on a first-come, first-served basis between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the practice on Mt. Aetna Road.
Susie Sholty, a receptionist at Hagerstown Smiles, said as soon as news of the event became public, people started calling to ask if they could camp out. A small number of patients already had planted themselves in the parking lot when employees left work Friday around 6 p.m.
“One women was here with two bags, almost like luggage, her cane and a backchair. She was probably in her high 80s,” Sholty said. “She took a bus to Dual Highway and walked from there.”
Sholty said the woman had an infected tooth that required extraction and antibiotic treatment. After providing care, volunteers helped her get a cab home.
Dr. Bruce Burley, who operates Hagerstown Smiles along with his son, Dr. Brandon Burley, said the two first heard of Dentistry from the Heart last year when a Florida dentist who started the nonprofit organization spoke at a conference they attended.
“I thought it was really neat,” Bruce Burley said. “I’ve been in this practice for almost 30 years, and this community has really blessed us. I thought this would be a great way to give back.”
Brandon Burley said area businesses and churches donated nearly $3,000 toward dental materials and instruments for the event.
More than 100 people were waiting for services when the staff began to arrive at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, Sholty said. By midmorning, more than 150 had registered.
Patients were eligible to receive either a cleaning, a filling or an extraction. They waited outside under a tent and on the grassy hills surrounding the parking lot for their numbers to be called.
The waiting room inside served as a triage area. Many patients had cavities and infections.
“Infections can very quickly go to the rest of the body. They can even get to the heart,” Bruce Burley said. “From a total health point of view, infections are not good.”
Meghan Salmon, 24, of Hagerstown, came to have a cavity filled.
Although she works full-time and has dental insurance, a planned extraction of her wisdom teeth will exhaust her allowable annual coverage. Paying out of pocket is pricey, she said.
“I think this is awesome that these people are giving up their time to help me. They are not getting anything for it,” Salmon said.
Ling Jiang of Frederick waited with her four children while her husband received care. She received services not long ago at a similar event in Frederick, she said.
The family has medical insurance, but not dental coverage.
“Oral hygiene is very important to overall health,” Jiang said. “I am very grateful for these people.”