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      Emergency dental care arrives in Georgetown County

      Dental assistant Lauren Hensley talks to a patient before performing an x-ray.

      GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WPDE) - A non-profit that assists people when they need food or help with their bills is now providing another service to the community, emergency dental care.

      Inside Helping Hands of Georgetown lies a clinic that looks just like any other dental office. But everything from the cabinets to the tools were either given to them or bought by donated funds.

      "The doors open at 3:30. It's first come, first served. Then we take six patients and two alternates, in case somebody gets turned away for some reason we'll still be able to see at least six patients. You need to bring a book. It's a long wait," explained Sharon Thomas, Executive Director of Helping Hands of Georgetown.

      For now the clinic focuses on extractions, which are done by 25 rotating area dentists who donate their time. Since it's been open, they've pulled 61 teeth.

      "Just a couple weeks ago one gentleman said, 'I can eat now.' That's just heartwarming, because in some cases people literally are not being able to eat, because they've got so much pain in their mouth," said Thomas.

      "It breaks my heart sometimes to see them come in hurting like they are," added Lauren Hensley, a dental assistant. "You never expect that when you walk in that somebody's tooth is going to be broke to the gum line. And it's going to be decayed. You never want to see that."

      The clinic is nearly two years in the making and serves an important need in the community.

      "We found out that the number one reason that people report to the emergency department are for dental emergencies. This not only helps people that are coming in, that are having pain and suffering, but it may in some relieve the amount of ER visits that occur," said Thomas.

      In addition, a decaying tooth could lead to more serious problems.

      Hensley explained why regular dental check-ups are important for everyone. "If you ever develop an infection in your mouth, the way I explain it to patients is, all your nerves that run through here in your face and your blood vessels are that much closer to your brain. Then let's say an infection in your leg. So it is imperative that you have that preventative care and you do have a problem you get it taken care of. Because if you don't, you could develop abscesses, cysts in your jaw, tumors, all the way up to cancer."

      The dental clinic is open on Thursday afternoons.

      It's for people who are uninsured, live in Georgetown County, and are living at or below the poverty rate.

      If you'd like to tour their new dental clinic you can attend the grand opening Tuesday, March 26. They are located at 1813 Highmarket Street in Georgetown. They can be reached at (843) 527-3424.