When Wildwood Police Det. Jerry Smith found out that Wildwood Dental Care was going to offer a day of free services for patients with no insurance, he knew what he had to do.
He immediately thought of Terry King, a local homeless man he’d gotten to know over the past five or six years. Smith said King is the quiet type who pretty much stays to himself and does cleaning jobs at a local business for a few dollars or food now and then.
But King had a huge problem – there were serious issues with every one of his teeth and he was living a life of pain because of it.
“Terry has all of his teeth but they are broken and black and he is very self-conscious about it,” Smith said. “He always turns his head away from anybody he talks to or holds his hand up to hide his teeth.”
Smith first learned about the free dental day in September when he met a Wildwood Dental Care employee in an unrelated incident. He asked her if he could send King in to see Dr. Ammar Mousa, the owner of the practice, to find out what could be done to help his friend.
“I didn’t expect the doctor to do everything Terry needed because of the condition of his teeth,” Smith said, adding that he was willing to pay a couple of hundred dollars himself to get King some relief. “I suggested maybe just asking the dentist to take out the main or worst teeth to try and alleviate some of the pain and discomfort Terry lives with.”
Smith was told to send King in to see what Mousa could do for him. He shared the good news with King and a couple of days later, the detective received a call from Megan Bolesta, the patient coordinator at Wildwood Dental Care. She said that King was at the office with Smith’s card but she wasn’t sure what it was for. So Smith explained the story about King and his efforts to help him, and suddenly, another person got on the phone and said, “I don’t know what this is about or what’s going on but Megan is crying.”
That sent Smith scrambling to his patrol vehicle for the short drive to the dental office to find out what was going on. When he walked in, Terry was in the waiting room completing paperwork. And when he saw Bolesta, who clearly was touched by Smith’s kindness, she looked at him and said, “You just don’t find many people like you anymore.”
fter a serious hug, Smith asked Bolesta to give him a call following Terry’s exam. But when that phone call came a short time later, the news wasn’t good – all of King’s teeth needed to be removed and he would need dentures – at a cost of several thousand dollars.
“To hear this was very overwhelming,” Smith said. “I explained that I didn’t have that kind of money but I would still like to meet with Dr. Mousa and see if maybe I could help with taking out the worst teeth.”
A few days later, Smith received news he never expected to hear – Mousa and his entire staff were willing to donate their time and do all the work King needed – for free.
“I was blown away by this amazing act of kindness from everybody involved,” Smith said.
A short time later, Smith shared the good news with King.
“I think Terry was shocked as well because he really didn’t have a lot of emotion at the time,” he recalled.
But when he met with King in the days ahead, things started to change.
“The emotion definitely started to show,” Smith said. “Terry was visibly excited about the coming procedures and even said, ‘This will be a life-changing event.”
Mousa said he started free dental day with people just like King in mind.
“We are part of this great community, which was supportive and generous to me since the day I started practicing in the area,” he said. “About three years ago, I decided that there was only one way to show how much I appreciated the community. I knew I wanted to start this free dental day to help some of the less fortunate people who did not have access to attention on their dental needs.”
Mousa said his staff was excited about the idea, as were other dentists in the area.
“It was a team of people who all had generous hearts and wanted to
give back,” he said. “The Wildwood area is in great need for such an effort, and it has been a blessing that I can provide that for the community.”
Mousa added that for many people, the free dental day has been a game-changer.
“Some people can barely afford to put food on the table,” he said. “For those people, dental care is the least of their priorities, no matter what pain they could be going through every day. This has shown them that there can be an opportunity to get out of misery.”
As for King, Mousa said he’s thrilled to be able to make a difference for him.
“He is one of those less fortunate patients who had a very severe
case,” Mousa said. “He was living in pain because every tooth that he had was beyond help, since they were all decayed and abscessed.”
There also was something else in play – Mousa knew he couldn’t turn King away and let him continue to live in such pain.
“I knew that restoring Terry’s smile was exactly what my whole purpose is as a dentist,” he said. “It was an easy decision. I knew how I could help him and I knew that this is the one great thing I could do for this person,” he said, adding that Unique Dentures of Fruitland Park also donated its services to make King’s dentures at no charge.
Mousa said he’s extremely thankful that Smith was persistent in his efforts to get King the help he needed.
“I am grateful for him because I’m hoping that people will remember there is a way for them to get help for their dental needs,” he said.
Mousa added that he’s also indebted to his associates and staff members for the role they played in free dental day and King’s treatment.
“Ever since I made the decision to donate a day of our time to help and give back to the community, they have gone above and beyond to make it happen,” he said. “We have grown together as one because of the free dental days. It was so amazing to see them go out of their way to help make my vision come true. Because nothing is more rewarding than to personally see the effect of how one can change someone’s life forever.”