In an era of rising costs, people sometimes have to choose between putting food on the table, paying rent and utility bills, buying medication and going to the doctor.

A trip to the dentist is even further down that list.

The staff of Jackson County Dental in Seymour, including Dr. Matthew Pierce and Dr. Lane Severe, recently decided to do something to help make it a little easier for people to have their teeth cleaned, a tooth pulled or a cavity filled.

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On May 19, they offered Dentistry from the Heart, a free dental day for those who might not be able to afford a dentist visit otherwise.

“The idea for a free dental day came about as we talked with patients and members of the community,” said office manager Kim Nash. “So many people have approached Dr. Pierce and our entire staff stating how they need to get their teeth fixed but have been unable to do so because of finances.”

The event was conducted in conjunction with Jackson County United Way’s annual Day of Caring.

“So we decided the free dental day would be a way to give people care they desperately need while giving back to the community that supports us throughout the rest of the year,” Nash said.

A total of 40 patients received free services, which included cleanings, dental exams and X-rays, extractions and fillings.

“Overall, extractions were the most requested service for the day,” Nash said. “The event turned out great, but we always wish we could see and help more people.”

Seymour oral surgeons Dr. Gregory Strull and Dr. James Strull volunteered their services by performing several tooth extraction procedures. Also participating were three dental assistants from Seymour Orthodontics and Dr. Jason Hua, the dental director for The Jane Pauley Community Health Center in Anderson and Dr. Van Morin of Tipton Park Dentistry in Columbus.

An interpreter from Southern Indiana Hispanic Services also was on-site to help translate for Spanish-speaking patients.

Dental health is not just important to be able to eat and to look and feel good, Nash said.

“We view the mouth and teeth as the start of overall systemic health,” she said. “Poor dental health can be related to other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, strokes, poorly controlled diabetes and even preterm labor.”

For those who missed the free dental day, Nash said there are options available to help make dental treatment more affordable.

“We work with an outside finance company, Care Credit, and we also offer discounts for services paid in full at time of service and utilize numerous other ways to help make dental care affordable and attainable,” she said. “If we are not able to help, we can refer patients to the Community Health Center in town that works with patients according to their income.”

Nash said the free dental day will be an annual event.

“We always believe there will be a need in our community for it,” she said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.