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Volunteers Give Health Care to Uninsured in Rural Virginia

Organizations that deliver free medical care worldwide, often in emergencies, recently visited rural Virginia to provide more than 1,000 people with all types of health services. Susan Dentzer provides a report.

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  • DENTIST:

    You feeling any pressure there?

  • SUSAN DENTZER, NewsHour Health Correspondent:

    A tent at a sweltering county fairgrounds in rural Virginia, not exactly the place you'd expect to get state-of-the-art dental care. Freddy Duty did not expect that, either, but judging from his badly decayed front teeth, he needed it.

  • FREDDY DUTY, Truck Driver:

    I'm a truck driver. I've got three kids, and I just haven't been to the dentist in like 10 years. And sitting in a truck, I don't have a lot of opportunities to brush my teeth, you know, after I eat a meal or something. And as a result of that, I've lost quite a few of my teeth, you know, to cavities.

    DR. CAROL BROOKS, School of Dentistry, Virginia Commonwealth University: We're going to take good care of you, get you smiling nice again.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    Duty, who doesn't have health or dental insurance, originally came to this three-day health fair in Appalachia to get his teeth pulled, but dentist Carol Brooks talked him out of it.

  • DR. CAROL BROOKS:

    So we have just some teeth that we just really need to save.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    Brooks is clinical director of the Missions of Mercy Project at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Dentistry.

  • DR. CAROL BROOKS:

    I said, "What are you going to do if you have these teeth taken out?" And he's like, "Nothing." And I'm like, "But then that changes your chances for a job or just your overall appearance." So many it's judged quickly by just whether or not you have front teeth or not.

    These front teeth that have cavities have these big holes, but their roots are great. There's plenty of bone here.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    Brooks' colleague, dentist Neil Turnage, then got to work on Duty, one of roughly 3,000 patients who swarmed here to this annual event in late July. On top of dental care, they came in search of eyeglasses.

  • OPTOMETRIST:

    Is the feeling tight enough?

  • EYE PATIENT:

    Yes.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    Women came for mammograms, some for the first time in their lives.

  • DOCTOR:

    It's going to be tight.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    These and other medical services would be out of the reach of many if they weren't available here for free.

  • HEALTH FAIR WORKER:

    740 through 750, come on through!