Free dental clinic helps thousands of Mid-Southerners get their smiles back

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It’s the first thing many people notice about you, and a smile can either make or break your confidence.

For the third year in a row, the Mid-South Mission of Mercy is offering free dental work at a special clinic Friday and Saturday at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova.

They’re offering cleanings, fillings and even dental surgery.

"I can’t take a picture with my kids, I can’t do a lot of family things, and I just find myself doing this – covering my mouth, trying to hide it," said patient Kim Hancock.

Hancock, 44, had been having problems with her front tooth for more than two decades until she finally lost it recently.

"It gave me trouble down the line and now, a year later, here I am fixing to get my tooth back – my smile again," she said.

She’s one of thousands who will show up to take advantage of the opportunity during the two-day event, some waiting in line for more than 12 hours to get free dental work.

"I got here around 11:30 last night," Hancock said.

Dozens of local dentists and thousands of volunteers donate their time to help out.

"Dentists are taking the day off work, they’re paying their employees to be here many times as well, too," said Dr. Mitchell Godat, dentist and CEO of the Mid-South Mission of Mercy.

Over the past two years, the organization has helped close to 4,000 people, and has given away almost $2.5 million worth of dentistry.

"Imagine you’re going to Easter with your family, you’d kind of like to be able to smile with your front tooth, really important to have that, or you’re trying to get a job and you’re embarrassed," Dr. Godat said.

Transforming not just smiles...

"Thank you Jesus, I get my smile back today," Hancock said.

But also changing lives.

"We’re here to help people," Dr. Godat said.

The clinic is for adults and children and people are helped on a first-come, first served basis. It lasts until 4 p.m. Friday and doors open again at 6 a.m. Saturday.