Dentistry From the Heart

Friday, August 31, 2012

SAN LORENZO (KGO) — There were big smiles in Alameda County Friday morning. Dozens of people were flashing their pearly whites thanks to a group of volunteers coming together to provide free dental care. People started lining up Friday starting at 3 a.m. One man came all the way from Los Angeles.

The volunteers didn’t know what to expect when they decided to offer free dental care Friday in San Lorenzo. But they sure didn’t think they would see this, “Astounding,” event coordinator Supriya Kazi said. “I didn’t think this many people would show up.”

This is the first time Lewelling Dental Care has held a free clinic. Dr. Shital Kazi had heard about the non-profit group dentistry from the heart and decided she wanted to participate. But running her own practice left her little time for organizing this. So she enlisted the help if her 16-year-old daughter, Supriya, “I guess this really shows, you know, how much people really need help in the community, especially with the economy and everything today.”

They’re helping people like San Leandro resident Eric Florence who hasn’t seen a dentist since he lost his job, “Maybe about a year and a half, two. Same time I lost a job I lost everything, insurance no coverage.”

San Lorenzo resident Mario Casteneda has a job, but he still hasn’t been able to afford dental care, “I didn’t have any dental, my company didn’t offer it, you know it’s expensive. So I gotta find another way to get dental.”

They’re offering a choice between a cleaning, filling, or tooth extraction. Dr. Kazi isn’t quite sure how much this is costing her practice, “Probably a few thousand dollars. I don’t want to put a number to it, but it’s definitely worth it.”

The mother-daughter team says the toughest part of the day has been turning people away, “It’s so hard,” Supriya said. “I really hate doing it. But as some point you have to say I’m sorry we can’t do it.”

They’ve promised 75 people that they will be seen today, they can’t take anymore. They were originally planning on treating 70.