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      Free dental services create hundreds of smiles

      A group of dentists in Iron Mountain aimed to put a smile on hundreds of faces Saturday. They gave a very rare gift: free dental assistance.

      While most hope to avoid a dentist's chair, Saturday's dental cleaning is a luxury for Kathee Knudsen. She hasn't had insurance for a few years now, only seeking care for emergencies, and that adds up.

      But Saturday, money isn't an issue. The checkup won't cost her a cent, making her time here a little less painful.

      "It feels good knowing that there's this kind of help out here in the community for people; it's a wonderful opportunity," said Knudsen.

      Professionals say good dental hygiene is critical for overall health. Six years ago, Dr. John Fornetti set out to keep his neighbors healthy and happy. His office and local dentists are offering the rare opportunity to receive a free cleaning, filling or even extraction, procedures that could add up to hundreds without insurance.

      People came from far away and waited hours for the free service.

      "Last night I drove by at 9 p.m.; our first patient was out at the door already," said greeter Karen Larson.

      Six doctors, more than 100 volunteers and additional partners, such as The Drug Store in Iron Mountain, who have pledged to provide medication for all treated patients, came together to make the event possible.

      It's thousands of dollars in labor, supplies and resources, but organizers say the simple relief they provide is also priceless.

      "We have some people that come in in pain, you can see it in their eyes, in their face," Larson said. "They leave with a smile. That's the most awesome thing we can offer."