By BRIAN SMITH
Going to the dentist isn’t normally a joyous experience. Tommy Minor’s visit to Dr. Tom Novak on Friday was.
Because Novak’s program “Dentistry With a Heart,” Minor and many others from throughout the county had the chance to have dental work done at no charge.
“Hey, I’m getting my dental problem taken care of for free. How could it be a bad day?” Minor, of Peaster, said.
Minor admitted not having been to the dentist for a “few years” because of financial issues. He heard about the program through a newspaper article and decided to come out.
“I came here for a cleaning, but ain’t no telling what they’ll find when they get in there,” Minor said with a laugh.
This is the third year for the program and word has spread. People began lining up at 3:30 p.m.
Thursday. Cookie McLemore was first in line for the second straight year. She met up with Donna Brazzell, who she met last year at the event.
“It’s just really nice what he’s doing,” McLemore said. “You get here and meet people. Everyone’s just been great.”
Brazzell arrived around 4 p.m. and saw her old friend with the two reminiscing for the evening.
“People have been talking. They’ve been laughing,” Brazzell said. “It’s like you’re spending time with brothers and sisters from another mother.”
Novak’s staff, all decked out in blue “Smile, it’s free” T-shirts, reveled in the atmosphere, recognizing people from last year as they began passing out forms telling what was needed about 20 minutes before the 8 a.m. opening. Novak himself came out and walked amidst the throng of people, which numbered about 100 people before the event.
Novak said he and his staff get as much, if not more, back from those they help than they give.
“People tell me it’s so nice what I’m doing and maybe it is,” Novak said. “What they don’t realize is everyone here will tell you it’s the best day we have here all year. It’s low pressure, everyone is pleasant and kind. I like to think we’re doing a little bit of good, but we’re the ones who are the big winners.”
Novak received some assistance in the process from fellow dentist Brad McConnell, a Fort Worth friend of Novak. McConnell said he is normally off on Friday and was looking to try something similar at his office.
“He told me to come on by and see what was going on, how things were done,” McConnell said. “I’m just here to help.”
One service per patient was offered per sitting, be it a cleaning, filling or extraction. Any other services needed would be done but the individual had to go to the back of the line to keep things moving.
Dominga Harvey was in the chair having an extraction done and waiting patiently for Novak, who was taking care of some last-minute details. Harvey said she came last year for a cleaning and was pleased with how everything went so she came back.
Herman Guerra was across the hall also having an extraction done. Novak moved quickly between the pair, making time for small talk but also being professional while McConnell focused on cleanings and fillings.
Everyone appeared pleased with the process once inside with Minor offering one suggestion.
“They need to get someone out here with some Starbucks or a food truck or something,” Minor said. “They’d make an absolute killing.”