Free dental day

Dr. Ed Bishay, left, works on a patient during the California Dental Group's annual free emergency dental care event on South Glendale Avenue in Glendale on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. Procedures included cleaning, extractions and fillings. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / September 25, 2013)

More than 200 people, some arriving before dawn, lined up along Glendale Avenue on Wednesday to receive root canals, fillings and other dental work during a free emergency care clinic hosted by the California Dental Group.

Vance Jordan, 59, of Glendale arrived with a toothache and said he hadn't seen a dentist in about seven years.

Shay Sanders, 30, of Los Angeles came at 2 a.m. to wait six hours for a root canal, a procedure she said wasn't available at most free clinics and well out of her budget.

“Everybody I know needs dental work, but they can't afford it,” said Mike Jeffries, 53, of Glendale, who also needed a root canal. “Dental insurance is expensive, so they let [their teeth] go until it gets critical. That's what I did.”

California Dental Group has offered at least one daylong free clinic each of the past eight years for patients who otherwise couldn't afford treatment, said Cindy Rios, a clerk at the Glendale office.

There were two dentists, four dental assistants and four front-office staffers working the clinic, she said.

Jeffries and several others in line said they had previously received care through the state's Medi-Cal program until state lawmakers cut adult dental benefits from the program in 2009 amid the state budget crisis.

About a third of adult Glendale residents cannot afford to pay for dental care and more than 55% lack dental insurance, according to a recent study by the Glendale Healthier Community Coalition.

“Medi-Cal needs to rethink their policy on preventive dental,” said 63-year-old Nick Franklin of Glendale, who suffers from cerebral palsy, is confined to a wheelchair, and needed work on his gums.

“I really appreciate the opportunity to be here today. It's a real blessing,” Franklin said.

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Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.

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