Pulling two all-nighters in a row might sound about as pleasant as pulling teeth, but to Kyra Adams, sleepless nights are a small price to pay for dental care.
Adams’ tooth started to hurt several weeks earlier, but she’d used up her dental insurance’s annual limits. She would need to choose between waiting months for a new credit line or shelling out $800 for treatment.
When her husband, Kevin Adams, heard about the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival, he suggested she get her root canal there. The Catholic Charities-sponsored event offered free dental care such as cleanings, extractions and root canals, along with other health resources such as blood pressure checks and HIV tests. Even though Adams said free dental work sounded “too good to be true,” he urged her to go.
“When you’re desperate for a solution, you’ll try anything,” Adams said.
Doors opened at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center at 7 a.m. Friday, but Adams got in line for his wife, who works an overnight shift as a Panera Bread baker, at 10 p.m. Thursday. Adams was second in line for the event, behind someone who arrived about 30 minutes earlier, he said.
Kyra Adams came straight from work and joined her husband at about 6 a.m. Friday, she said. She stayed at the event until about 3:30 p.m., but although the volunteering dentists treated about 785 patients that day, there were not enough staff members to do root canals. Friday visitors who needed the procedure were told to return Saturday, but no new patients were able to get the operation that day, said Stef Carroll, a University of Maryland hygiene student volunteering at the event.
Kevin Adams said his wife was tempted to give up instead of returning after another work night, but she came back the next morning. By the time she finished her root canal and checked out around 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Kyra Adams had been awake for 48 hours.
Silver Spring native Lily Melendez also had to return Saturday for a root canal. Her front tooth had been bothering her for a few years, but she had no dental insurance and couldn’t afford the procedure. She’d arrived at 5 a.m. Friday, but was turned away. So she came back at 2 a.m. Saturday.
“It’s a free event and I’m coming for free, so I’m not going to get upset [about the wait] as long as I have it done,” Melendez said.
Melendez said she takes her three daughters to the dentist every six months because she doesn’t want them to develop dental problems. Those dental visits made her feel self-conscious, she said, because she always assumed dental workers would wonder why she didn’t fix her own teeth.
“I will feel more confident and won’t be afraid to smile or talk,” Melendez said. “Teeth are everything, and I always felt like people were staring.”
Ilona Barnes of Silver Spring also came hoping for more confidence. She had five teeth pulled at a Mission of Mercy pop-up clinic in Laurel in August 2013, and she came back to this year’s event to get bottom teeth pulled so she could use dentures.
“I had to practice my smile so it didn’t show certain things,” Barnes said. “I will be going into public speaking, so I need to present myself well.”
Barnes got in line at 9:45 p.m. Friday, toting a pillow, blanket and speakers to play serene music to help her sleep. She said spending the night in a stadium parking lot would be “worth the wait” once she was treated.
“People do this for a concert, so I can do it for the betterment of my health,” Barnes said.