By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News
Some dentists volunteer abroad on medical mission trips. Dr. Theodore Siegel donates his time to locals who can’t afford dental care.
Once a year, on Valentines Day, he opens his door and, along with his colleagues, they see a long line of patients that sometimes wraps around the block in Logan Square. Some line up overnight.
He’s a dentist with a heart who wants to give back to the community on Valentine’s Day. “If you just look around here, there are people in Chicago who can’t afford to feed or clothe their children or get a tooth pulled,” Siegel said. “We’re just trying to help people out and see if we can make a difference in their lives.”
He’s been doing the Valentine’s Day event for 14 years. That first year, 206 people came through the door at Big Smile Dental and oral surgeons, dentists and hygienists were there until midnight.
He came up with idea after a vacation thinking “why can’t I do this, open my doors, call on a few of my friends. They were all on board.”
“We’re all exhausted and we’re very uplifted too,” said Siegel who has practiced in the area for 25 years. “It’s really a wonderful day where you can go to work and not worry about insurance companies and payments,” Siegel said.
“It’s so different than writing a check. We’re here doing the work, getting the hugs, getting the thank yous. People are just so nice. That keeps you pretty motivated.”
People hear about the event on the news, the Internet and through word of mouth, he said. Television interviews have drawn people from as far as Indiana.
The dentists offer cleanings, extractions, fillings, X-rays, pain control, root planning and scaling – any procedure that can be done in a day. The only restriction is that patients have to be 12 years of age or older.
The event is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2833 N. Milwaukee Avenue. People who line up in the morning are given a number and told to come back at a certain time to be seen. “We hand out as many numbers to as many patients as we think we can get to.”
Siegel in the past has done a Back to School clinic for children.
Dental supply companies donate filling material, sutures and other supplies.
At this late date, Siegel still needs more professionals to volunteer at his office. “We can definitely use anyone willing to help.” He encourages dentists to call or email to get involved: email@example.com or (773) 772-6400.