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Smiles abound at free dental clinic; 3 dentists provide no-cost services to the uninsured

A team of dedicated dentists volunteered their time Sunday to provide free dental care to people without insurance.

Dr. Jim Lesinski, along with his friends Drs. Douglas Saturnino and Glen Donnarumma, saw 76 patients at Lesinski's office on Sweet Home Road in Amherst. Patients received cleanings, fillings and, if needed, tooth extractions.

"Given everything going on with the economy right now, it's important that we do this to let people know there are still good things happening out there," said Lesinski.

The event was arranged by Dentistry From the Heart, a national nonprofit organization that organizes free dental care for those who can't afford costly procedures. The nonprofit says it has helped more than 50,000 patients by providing more than $1 million worth of free care since its founding in 2001.

Lesinski's family members helped with clerical work, and his daughters stood outside the office in the pouring rain holding signs, trying to attract more patients.

Nancy Stover of Clarence brought her daughter and her father to Lesinski's office to get care. Stover doesn't have dental insurance, so ordinarily she pays full price for cleanings and maintenance work for all of her family. She loved being able to take advantage of Lesinski's services, but said she was "almost amazed someone is even doing something like this."

"He and his children and his wife are here, giving up their Sunday, and people just don't do that these days," said Stover, who is considering seeing Lesinski during his office hours now rather than traveling to her regular dentist in Cheektowaga. "With the economy the way it is, it's great he can help out people who can't normally afford a dentist."

Not all dental procedures could be performed Sunday, and Lesinski had to refer patients with more serious problems to another dentist, but people were grateful for whatever help they could get.

Several of Lesinski's regular patients were there to volunteer, too. Cindy Acara of Amherst has been seeing Lesinski for at least six years and jumped at the chance to help register patients.

"People are scared of the dentist, but there's no need to be scared of Dr. Jim, he's an awesome dentist," said Acara, who had began setup at the office at 5:50 a.m. Sunday. "When I first started coming here, I was in major, major pain, I couldn't even smile without feeling some pain, but he worked with me and I'm glad to be here today for others."

While this was the first free clinic Lesinski has sponsored, it's not the first time he has done work pro bono. He recalled a situation earlier this year when Allcare Dental, a Clarence-based insurance provider, filed for bankruptcy. One of his patients was left with a bad-fitting pair of dentures and no recourse. Instead of worrying about cost, "we got the patient fit with new dentures, free of charge," Lesinski said.

Another Dentistry From the Heart free clinic will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, at the five locations of Dr. Bob's Dental Care, in Amherst, Niagara Falls, Town of Tonawanda, Elmwood Village and North Buffalo. For more information, visit dentistryfromtheheart.org.

email: kbargnes@buffnews.com

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