Dentists provide free dental work as part of "Smiles for Santa"

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - A local dental office offered their services for free Saturday.

For the eighth year, Comfort Care Dental provided "Smiles from Santa," which means anyone can walk in on a first come, first serve basis and get free dental work.

"We have probably 30 volunteers and we're going to see around 150 people today and almost $30,000 to $35,000 worth of dentistry," said Phil Harper, DMD.  

Hundreds of patients took a seat and waited hours for their choice of a free cleaning, filling or extraction. Dentists say the need is so great, that they requested help from other local-area dentists.

"We've been seeing a lot of people that have had some pretty major dental problems they've been putting off for quite a while," said Chris Hansen, DDS. "A lot of people have had infections and deep cavities."

Statistics show that one in every four Americans under 65 years of age lack dental insurance.

"Every year is very huge and it continues to grow bigger and bigger," said Kat Mills, Comfort Care Dental. "Last year we had people camp out overnight and this year we had people camp overnight too."

"We've been doing this for the last eight years because it's something we like to do to give back to the community," said Harper. "It's just a really good way to help people out before Christmas, that way they're not in pain."

While going to the dentist can be a little scary, one of today's patients says it takes special incentive to get her to sit in the dentist chair.

"It's just like going to the doctor's except this time you get toys!" said Sariah McKay, a patient.

Comfort Care Dental has treated more than 800 people in need over the past seven years.

It's best to make a trip to the dentist at least once a year, but if you can't swing that, dentists say brushing your teeth twice a day will keep them healthy.

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