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A room full of dentists, dentist chairs, scopes and gauze was a welcome sight for hundreds of people Friday and Saturday.

Southern Maryland Mission of Mercy held dental screenings at North Point High School in Waldorf for about 700 dental patients.

The gymnasium at North Point hummed with the sound of dental tools and volunteers. Patients sat quietly in chairs nearby waiting for their turn to receive free dental services.

After a general health screen, patients were seen by volunteer dentists. Treatment included X-rays, cleanings and tooth extractions.

Selina Harrison, 60, of Waldorf said at 3 p.m. Friday that she had waited since 8 a.m. to be seen by a dentist, but she did not mind the wait.

“I think it’s worth the time we’re taking to be seen here,” said Harrison, who has medical insurance but no dental insurance. Harrison said she had dental insurance a year ago, but then back pain caused her to grind her teeth, and she cracked a tooth.

At Friday’s screening, Harrison said she received a checkup and X-rays, and at 3 p.m. she was waiting to have the tooth extracted.

“I think what they’re doing is really commendable,” Harrison said, adding that the dentists, escorts and assistants were all volunteers.

Becky Rutledge of Waldorf volunteered Friday and Saturday as a lead for patient registration. Rutledge said 800 patients were registered to be seen in the two months of registration before Friday morning. Though some of those who registered did not show up, organizers said.

“And, then, of course, we took walk-ins,” said Rutledge, who volunteered at a health fair day for veterans and family members in Lexington Park but not at a dental screening before.

Rutledge said the best part about the two dental screening days was “so many patients get the care they need.”

“They’re very appreciative,” Rutledge said. “They’re very much in need of dental care. And, despite the fact they had to spend all day [some of them], they never once complained.”

Rutledge said for her the experience was “exciting, rewarding, intimidating.”

Betsy Barley, 79, of California previously volunteered for a Mission of Mercy dental screening in Western Maryland. On Friday and Saturday she escorted patients to each station for care.

On Friday, Barley said a woman told her after having two teeth extracted and avoiding infection, “We saved her life.” Barley said the woman could not have afforded such dental care on her own.

“We recognize that there’s such a need,” Barley said. “We’re glad to treat this many patients, but we wish there wasn’t such a need.”

Barley said those who showed up for care were very patient as they waited to be seen and, if necessary, waited for oral surgery.

On Friday afternoon, Rebecca Lamaster, 32, of Lexington Park had X-rays and was waiting to have three teeth removed, including two wisdom teeth. One wisdom tooth was broken. She had been at Friday’s dental screening since 9 a.m.

Lamaster said she had her top wisdom teeth removed already and was trying to save enough money to have the bottom ones removed. She tried for two years to be seen at area dental screenings.

“Today, I feel, is my lucky day,” Lamaster said.

She said she was “very thankful for all the volunteers” and that they gave their time.

Desirae Hopper, 28, came to Friday’s dental screening from Baltimore. Without dental insurance since no longer being on her parents’ insurance, Hopper said she had dental issues and was hoping to save money to have three teeth pulled that were deteriorating. On Friday afternoon, she waited to have the three teeth removed.

Joan Emberland, a dentist at Luke M. Morgan DDS & Associates in Mechanicsville, was one of 100 dentists who volunteered their services Friday and Saturday. She evaluated Hopper before sending her to oral surgery.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Emberland said. “It’s been great, though. You want to be able to treat all the patients and do all the work on them that you can, but you can’t.”

Emberland, who volunteered her services two years ago for Southern Maryland Mission of Mercy’s dental screenings at Chopticon High School, said those at this year’s dental screening were patient, and the volunteers were so dedicated that they had to be forced to take breaks. Emberland said she also has participated in dental screenings in the Philippines.

One of Emberland’s patients, she said, was at North Point at 4 a.m. Friday and said that 100 patients were waiting in the parking lot.

“I just hope we can treat all of these patients that have been waiting,” said Emberland, who also volunteered her services Saturday.

rbarnabi@somdnews.com