Tracy Burden’s last name is almost too fitting. The 43-year-old Kansas City, Kan., resident showed up early Saturday morning at Foster Dental Care in Blue Springs in the hopes of getting a good spot for some important work.

Tracy Burden’s last name is almost too fitting.


The 43-year-old Kansas City, Kan., resident showed up early Saturday morning at Foster Dental Care in Blue Springs in the hopes of getting a good spot for some important work.


Burden got there really early.


“The sun wasn’t even up,” he said, shoving his hands deep in his pockets. He had traded spots with his wife in order to warm up. “Had to get here early.”


Burden was No. 53 in line, about 27 people ahead of where he needed to be to ensure that he would receive the free dental work he needed done. A popular event to be sure, the Dentistry from the Heart program, in its second year, made Burden happy because he has another six months to wait until his health benefits kick in.


“I’m scared to death of dentists, but I have to be here,” he said. “My poor wife – she just started her job, too, and has to wait for benefits. She’s in a lot of pain.”


Burden and his wife got up at about 5 a.m. and made the trek about 20 miles east to Blue Springs to get in line. About 200 others had the same idea.


John Hocks of Blue Springs made it there early; he learned his lesson from last year when he showed up at 7:30 p.m., waiting three hours, only to be informed that he wouldn’t get the free tooth extraction he needed.


“I ended up having it done, but it cost me almost $300,” he said. “I’m here to just get a good cleaning.”


The goal on Saturday was to serve as many as 150 patients, or as many as volunteers could serve between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.


Founded in 2001, the program was created to aid those in need, including the growing population of under-insured and, like Burden, the uninsured. This year, the nationwide program hopes to help help more than 12,000 patients and provide millions in dental care.


More than 29 percent of adults have untreated cavities, according to information provided by the office. Those who showed up Saturday had their choice of services: teeth cleaning, extraction or a single filling.


Brenda Warkoski of Kansas City needed a tooth pulled. Opening her mouth, she showed where the left molar moved back and forth like an old fence post. The pain had gotten so bad, she said, she had considered pulling it on her own.


“Then someone told me about this and I decided to wait,” she said. “I was worried about infection.”


Dentists last year were able to treat 101 patients at the Blue Springs office.


Burden said he saw the advertisement on television and prepared.


“Like I said, we got here as early as we could,” he said. “Some of the ones at the front – they brought blankets and chairs. They were here at 4 a.m.”


He shook his head.


“What people will do, you know…?”


Additional details about the event can be found on the organization’s national website at www.dentistryfromtheheart.org.