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Line for Free Dental Care

DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) People are camping out at the state fairgrounds for free dental care.

The clinic begins at 6 a.m. Friday, but some people have been waiting in line since 9 a.m. Thursday. They wanted to make sure they got a good spot in line because only about 1,500 people will get in.

The event is sponsored by the Iowa Mission of Mercy.

"You just don't get a lot of free stuff anymore to help out healthwise and everything," said Eldon Thompson of Glidden.

Thompson claimed his spot 18 hours in advance because this freebie is too good to pass up.

"I'm going to have some teeth removed, extractions. I've got 15 of them that need to be removed," Thompson said.

With no insurance, that would cost him thousands of dollars at the dentist office. It's something Jarred Dean Lawson knows all too well.

"My last dental bill was almost $2,000 and all I had was a cleaning and two teeth removed," Lawson said.

With or without insurance, whether the job is big or small, dental work is not cheap. That's why the Iowa Mission of Mercy is going strong in its sixth year. The event has served more than 7,000 people since it began.

"We have given away over 4.5 million dollars in free oral health care," said Kathy Salisbury, director of the Iowa Dental Foundation.

About 100 dentists volunteer their time. Some patients just want a cleaning, others -- much more.

"We will do everything from restorative, oral surgery, pulling teeth, hygiene, and we also have a pediatrics area," Salisbury said.

With no financial questions asked, patients can get a brand new smile with ease.

"If you don't have good teeth, it will affect getting a good job," said Glidden.

Which makes camping out on a cool, autumn night worth it.

"If you can get something like this for free, it's almost once in a lifetime, if you can't make it anywhere else but this one time," said Lawson.

The clinic runs Friday and Saturday but it can only handle so many patients each day. You have to get to the fairgrounds early.

If you get to the fairgrounds late on Friday, the clinic may turn you away and ask you to come back for Saturday's clinic.

You can start lining up for Saturday's event at 5 p.m. Friday.

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