His molars had been bothering him for a year, but without insurance Steve Thornton resigned to fight through the pain.
Relief finally came Saturday for the 55-year-old Oklahoma City resident, one of about 1,000 to seek free dental, vision, mental health and general health treatment at State Fair Park.
Hosted by Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps, the two-day health care event is bringing dozens of local and out-of-state providers to the park to provide free services for some of the state's neediest residents.
Thornton, who lined up at midnight the night before, said his dental work Saturday morning made him feel “110 percent better, just knowing they're out.” He also got a free cleaning.
Ron Brewer, director of the volunteer medical group, said participants were able to get most their basic health care needs met at the event.
Most people came for vision and dental screenings, he said. Nearly four dozen dentists, most of them from Oklahoma, did cleanings, fillings and extractions.
Volunteers conducted eye exams and made eyeglasses on the spot, he said. In the worst case scenarios, the volunteers were able to make referrals to professional ophthalmologists.
Physicians were also on site to conduct general health screenings, including women's care. Pediatricians provided treatment for children.
Brewer said the volunteer corps started out serving remote populations in the United States and elsewhere around the world, but expanded service several years ago into Oklahoma and other urban areas with a high number of uninsured residents.
An estimated 624,480 people are uninsured in Oklahoma.
“You can walk outside and see most of the population, and a large percent of Oklahoma and the United States, are unemployed, and those who are employed are often underinsured,” he said. “These folks who came out to our clinic today are not wanting a handout, they just need a boost.”
Service at the remote clinic is first-come, first-serve. Numbered tickets for Sunday's clinic will start being issued at 3:30 a.m., and the doors will open at 6 a.m.
Brewer said people started lining up as early as Friday afternoon to make it through the line Saturday.
The event is at Oklahoma Expo Hall on the north side of State Fair Park near the Space Tower. The address is 333 Gordon Cooper Blvd.