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The Bye Center opens its doors for Dentistry from the Heart

February 18, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

Harold Dean Smith Jr. had one tooth broken off and another cracked in an October car crash, but he had no dental insurance and more pressing medical needs at the time.

On Saturday, he emerged from one of the exam rooms at The Bye Center on Pennsylvania Avenue, looking fairly chipper for someone who just had two teeth extracted.

“One of them had to be removed surgically because it was a pain to get out,” Smith said through a wad of cotton.

Smith and about 130 other people went to The Bye Center Saturday for Dentistry from the Heart, a day of free dental care for adults in need of cleanings, fillings or extractions.

Drs. Fred and Rebecca Bye hosted the event with help from more than 40 other volunteers, including dental hygienists and assistants, as well as Drs. Tom Good and Bob Zimmerman, and the father-son dental team of Drs. Bruce and Brandon Burley.

“This should be easy,” Bruce Burley said as he examined a small cavity in one of Amanda McAllister’s teeth.

“I don’t have insurance right now,” McAllister, a Frostburg State University student at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, said earlier. Though employed part time by a retailer that provides medical coverage, dental insurance only is available to full-time employees, she said.

“We decided to do this so we could give back to the community, which has given so much to us,” Fred Bye said between patients. It was a way to help adults who have lost jobs and insurance, or who cannot afford coverage, he said.

For three years, Rebecca Bye has been the dental team leader for Convoy of Hope, which provides dental, medical and other needs to people each September at Fairgrounds Park. Last fall, about 1,600 people, many of them children, were seen by the dental team volunteers, she said.

While screenings, oral cancer exams, diagnoses and education can be provided to those who attend, the park is not a suitable venue for most dental procedures, she said.

“It’s a lot of adults who really fall through the cracks,” Rebecca Bye said, noting there are government programs to provide dental care to children whose families cannot afford to pay.

Dozens of extractions, both simple and surgical, were performed, along with fillings and cleanings, Fred Bye said. The free care provided Saturday probably exceeded $20,000, he said.

Besides reducing pain and improving smiles, the free dental care can give some patients a measure of confidence and hope, Rebecca Bye said.

“I just like helping people. Helping your community when they need help,” said Maegan Taylor, a dental assistant student at Hagerstown Community College. Her T-shirt read, “Smile. It’s Free.”

Dentistry from the Heart has the added benefit of giving her and other students some practical experience, she said.

Dentistry from the Heart was founded about a decade ago by Florida dentist Dr. Vincent Monticciolo, Rebecca Bye said. During that time, dental professionals have provided about $18 million in free dental care across the country, she said.

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