Dr. Paul Neate

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The event offers free fillings and extractions for adults who are in need of dental care but who may not be able to afford it

It is unlikely Dr. Mike Finn will ever be confused with a rock star. But the longtime Campbell River dentist had patients lined up around his building beginning at 4 a.m. when he held a free dental care clinic as part of Dentistry from the Heart last year.

“It was like going to a Led Zeppelin concert,” Finn joked. “We worked from 8 (a.m.) to 4 (p.m.), non-stop. It was a huge success.”

Finn, associate Paul Neate and their staff will headline another stop on the Dentistry from the Heart tour this Sunday, Feb. 8, at Dogwood Dental Health Centre. Dr. Paul Helpard of Shoreline Orthodontics also took part last year and will return for the 2015 event.

The event offers free fillings and extractions for adults who are in need of dental care but who may not be able to afford it.

“Most kids in need are covered (for dental care),” said Finn. “It’s actually quite a good system. But say a single mom has three kids — she has no coverage.”

The free service is limited to fillings and extractions, due to the time limitations of dealing with large numbers of patients waiting on a first-come, first-served basis.

“This is like M*A*S*H dentistry,” Finn said. “Last year, if someone needed four (fillings) in one corner, we’d go ahead and do that. But we can’t get into major reconstruction.”

As a result, many patients who had been putting off dental procedures came in during last year’s free event to simply have the offending tooth pulled.

“We did a lot of extractions,” Finn said. “It might be a case where we could help them with root canals and crowns and a lot of extensive work, but that can run into thousands of dollars.

“A lot of people are in pain but they can’t afford it. It’s sad, really.”

Dentistry from the Heart was started in 2001 by Florida dentist Vincent Monticciolo. It has since grown to more than 300 events helping thousands of patients across North America, Ireland, Australia, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and New Zealand.

Finn said he learned of the program when one of his assistants brought information that a dentist in Victoria was performing a similar service.

“It’s giving back to a community that’s been very good to me,” said Finn, who has been practicing in Campbell River for 20 years. “The least I can do is donate a day.”

And for one day, at least, line up the fans like a rock star.

“I think this year we’ve had a lot more interest,” he said. “I’m a little worried.”