The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 29, 2013

Good Friday clinic provides free dental care in Carthage

CARTHAGE, Mo. — The tooth had given her so much pain, Erin Obie had tried to pull it herself.

“I sterilized the pliers and everything,” the Carthage woman said as she waited on Friday for the troublesome tooth to be extracted at a free dental clinic being offered at the office of Dr. William Herrington, of Joplin.

Obie said she had just qualified for Medicaid and hoped that coverage would pay to pull several other teeth. She was dismayed to learn the government program probably would not cover dental services for her.

“I knew it wouldn’t pay for anything cosmetic, but I thought surely it would help me get those other teeth pulled,” she said.

The dilemma faced by Obie is one of the reasons that well over 100 patients were expected to show up at the free clinic that Herrington’s practice has offered each Good Friday for the past three years. The free clinic was staffed by Herrington, Dr. Patricia Morales, of Rogers, Ark., and Herrington’s dental staff, all giving their time to the effort. Also on hand were about 40 other volunteers including students from dental hygiene programs at Missouri Southern State University and Franklin Technology Center in Joplin, and other workers signing up patients and helping in other ways, including feeding volunteers a noon lunch and providing sack lunches for patients waiting to be seen.

Herrington described the clinic as “mission work I can do here at home” to help Carthage area residents who cannot afford dental care. At the clinic patients could get one tooth extracted or filled, or a basic cleaning.

“There’s a lot people out there who just don’t have that extra money after they pay the rent and buy the groceries,” he said.

That’s the case with Obie, who was there with her husband, Michael Obie, both to get a tooth extracted. Michael Obie is on disability and Erin cares for her parents, who are both ill. She said the tooth had been bothering her for over a year, and she had been able to see a doctor, who had prescribed antibiotics and pain medicine.

“We get $710 a month. After we pay rent and buy groceries, we’re broke,” she said. “It was getting so it hurt for me to eat anything — even cereal.”

Michael Obie said they had seen information on the free clinic at Crosslines of Carthage. He said he had been having pain from a tooth for more than a month and was happy when he learned he might be able to get it pulled.

“I thank God for this; we couldn’t have afforded to pay for it,” he said.

Vic Pugh, also of Carthage, said he broke a tooth two months ago and had been in pain ever since. He said he has no medical or dental insurance, and had been unemployed since the plant where he worked for 27 years had closed.

“There’s no way I could afford this,” he said.

Pugh after the procedure said the remaining tooth had to be extracted in three pieces, adding, “I didn’t feel a thing.”

About 30 people were waiting in line when staff arrived at 6:30 a.m., said Pam Herrington, Dr. Herrington’s wife, who was helping with the clinic. Patients were signed up and seated in a tent set up outside the office, then called in at the time of their procedure. As they left, patients were given bags with toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, along with instructions on post-procedure care.

Some supplies and materials used in the clinic were donated by vendors, Herrington said, with some churches and individuals giving money or food, including the main course for volunteers, which was donated by Sirloin Stockade.

Other costs are borne by Herrington, including renting a tent that serves as a waiting room and portable restrooms, and buying T-shirts for volunteers that read, “Make Good Friday a Great Friday.”

Herrington said his Christian faith inspired him to start the clinic, noting he followed the example of dentists in Florida and Oklahoma who were setting aside days to provide free care.

“When we heard what they were doing, it touched our hearts and we wanted to do it here,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to know you’ve helped so many people.”

Herrington said he plans to offer the clinics for as long as he’s in practice. He said 99 patients got services a year ago and, so far, they’ve been able to see all the patients who have come.

“We’ve worked until after 7:30 p.m., and we’ve been able to wrap up earlier,” he said.

Getting dental care is a real challenge for low-income adults, said Ann Carlos, executive director of Area Community Health Emissaries Inc. The not-for-profit group started offering dental clinics in 2002 and now has locations in Anderson, Neosho, Carthage and Nevada.

Services are provided on a sliding scale for low income families, and she said the group also has a family assistance program to offer care at a reduced price for those who lack dental insurance.

“It’s hard to give away services, because we have to pay our dentists, but we do offer reduced rates,” she said.

While dental care is more available for children on Medicaid, Carlos said the rules are very restrictive when it comes to adults.

She said many low income people put off dental care, which can lead to serious health complications. She said organizations such as the Missouri Foundation for Health have recognized the problem and are trying to put together more programs that will help adults.

Access Family Care also offers dental services on a sliding scale, based on income, at locations in Joplin, Neosho and Cassville.

On loan

Dental care also is provided by dentists and hygienists who volunteer at the Community Clinic of Joplin, which provides medical services for people without insurance. Some of the equipment used at the Joplin clinic was on loan to Dr. William Herrington’s office for his clinic on Friday.


Text Only
Local News
  • Last two safe room projects up for Joplin School Board approval

    The Joplin Board of Education during its meeting tonight will consider more than $2.4 million in bid packages for safe rooms at Columbia and West Central elementary schools.

    April 20, 2014

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Mosaic pieces together purpose

    Today I want to tell you about a man named John — a man I never knew existed until last week. And yet he’s making a difference in my community. He is an individual served by Mosaic of Southeast Kansas, which also, I learned, is making a difference.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042017 Jo Ellis_c.jpg Jo Ellis: Carthage Historic Preservation to re-create trolley era

    Recapturing history is difficult, but recapturing history without a building, an artifact or a singular focal point is even harder. To celebrate National Historic Preservation Month, Carthage Historic Preservation wants to recapture an era and an experience that have been gone from the city for almost 80 years: the era of the trolley (or tram) cars that provided public transportation.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SusanRedden.jpg Susan Redden: Candidates for associate judge address GOP group

    The response was all but unanimous among four candidates seeking two Jasper County associate circuit judge positions. Asked to cite the biggest obstacle to justice in Jasper County, three of the four said the most prevalent challenge is getting the needed time on a busy court docket.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Money to area lawmakers slows down but doesn’t stop

    With the Legislature back in session, the flow of campaign cash to local candidates has slowed. But in this election year, the money did not completely stop. All members of the local delegation to the Missouri General Assembly are on the ballot this year, but only two lawmakers are facing opposition.

    April 20, 2014

  • Joplin City Council to hear baseball plan details

    Proposed redevelopment plans for Joe Becker Stadium will be discussed with the Joplin City Council in a work session at the end of its regular meeting tonight. The WLD Suarez partnership has obtained a franchise of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball that succeeds the El Paso (Texas) Diablos.

    April 20, 2014

  • 041814 EPA projects5_72.jpg Contaminated mine tailings could be used on west bypass

    About 500 acres of former mining land at Wildwood Ranch have been reclaimed by contractors working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than 1 million cubic yards of contaminated mine tailings in the form of chat and waste rock have been consolidated in a surface repository that someday could be part of the roadbed for a limited-access highway that transportation planners hope to build on the west side of Joplin.

    April 20, 2014 4 Photos

  • 041914 Wedding1_72.jpg VIDEO: Cancer patient walks down aisle in wedding thrown by friends

    A year ago, Schandera Jordan was diagnosed with a rare form cervical cancer. And months after a radical hysterectomy, doctors confirmed the worst: The cancer had spread to her lungs and pancreas.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0420earthday.jpg Prairie State Park kicks off Earth Day events

    Prairie State Park began celebrating Earth Day early with an event Saturday that provided a chance for people of all ages to learn more about how they can protect the environment.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • r041614giregabby.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Teen with cystic fibrosis finds widespread support

    When the Nevada Show Choir performs its spring show on stage, it’s impossible to pick out the student with cystic fibrosis because there are no outward clues.
    Gabby Gire, 18, is just another performer. She sings, she dances, she smiles for the audience.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

Must Read


The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, following Russia's buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine. Do you think we should deploy these troops?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter