Group of volunteers providing free dental care for Portland's ho - KPTV - FOX 12

Group of volunteers providing free dental care for Portland's homeless

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A group of dentists are rallying from across the Portland metro area to help the city's homeless. The team of volunteers are now providing free dental care to people in need.

Under the Burnside Bridge on a Thursday night people will likely find their big red van.

"I grab our van and park it wherever we want to have the truck stabilized and we go town," said Mobile Dental Clinic Manager Krista Handy.

The Medical Teams International Mobile Dental van draws crowds of people from the moment it rolls up.

"It's a little overwhelming sometimes, especially when the line is longer than we can treat and help," said Matt Stiller, Director of Dental Programs.

Lines of men, women and children living on the streets of Portland in need of dental care.

"I'm hopeful to get a dentist tonight so I can get two teeth pulled that are already hurting me and broken," said one woman standing in line.

Local dentists and hygienists volunteer their time to provide that care for free.

"We see people who haven't been able to eat, or sleep for months at a time because of tooth pain, or they feel ugly because of their smile," said Stiller. "Often, they're experiencing a severe infection that could lead to severe health problems."

It's all part of an event called Night Strike. A gathering that provides an opportunity for Portland's homeless to enjoy a hot meal, a haircut, or get their teeth cleaned at no cost.

"It is the greatest, we have a really good time," said Handy. "I call this my colorful crowd, we have everyone under the sun, it's a very diverse group we get to see."

Volunteers on board the van squeeze in as many patients as possible over the course of about four hours.

"It's a little overwhelming, it's hard because you want to give everyone what they need," said Handy.

Each patient who steps on board has a story.

"We often see patients who say they've been searching for this care for months," Handy added.

Tracy Dial's story brought her from Alaska to the Women's Shelter in Portland. Handy is trying to get her fitted for a denture. Dial tells FOX 12 it's been a long time since she's experienced anything like this.

"There are no words really to describe it, these people are sent by the Lord," said Dial.

"It's great work, it gives you that feel-good feeling, you never think about it, but your hands are your service," said Handy.

An act of kindness, that seems to be making all the difference.

"At the end of the night, I'm sitting back with gratitude and I just hope we did well for the patients that we were able to see," said Handy.

Medical Teams International tells FOX 12 they have 11 vans that move across Washington and Oregon and they'll help some 15,000 to 20,000 people in a year.

For more information about how to support their mission visit: http://www.medicalteams.org/

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