Many people dread going to the dentist; others can't even afford to do so.

That's why members of the York County Dental Society participate in the Doctors With a Heart program, offering free dental care each year around Valentine's Day.

In the program's 28th year, 14 dentist's offices will offer treatment at no cost to patients of limited financial means who do not have dental insurance or medical assistance.

Dentists will provide examinations, cleanings, x-rays, fillings and help relieve pain.

Giving back: Dr. Edward Roth's office in York Township has been involved in Doctors With a Heart for about as long as it's existed, he said.

"We participate basically because it's a nice way to give back to the community," he said. "The economy dictates that there are many people that fall between having insurance and not having means to provide dental care for their families."

Each year, Roth's office serves about 25 to 35 patients through the program, he said.

Making an appointment can certainly give patients an idea of where their dental health stands — especially if they have glaring dental problems or insecurities about their smiles, Roth said.

"That certainly can be corrected and perhaps make them feel better about themselves," he said.

Teeth are very important, and even if you can't see a decaying tooth in the back of your mouth, it's still making your digestive system work harder, said Dr. Joyce Kasunich with 1447 Dental Associates in Spring Garden Township.

"People don't understand that," she said.

The office has participated in the program for about four to six years, Kasunich said, seeing 15 to 20 kids and adults each year. She said giving healthy teeth and gums to those who are going through hard times is a great way to give back to the community.

"It's wonderful — it's the best feeling," she said.

How it works: Other than being uninsured and lacking medical assistance, there are no pre-qualifying factors for patients, Roth said. Each office determines which services to offer and to whom.

"Some offices do strictly adults, some offices do strictly children," he said. "Every office determines what procedures they want to do."

The only rule of thumb is that the procedure must be something that can be accomplished in one day, Roth said.

Offices are now accepting referrals from social service agencies, he said.

Starting Saturday, those interested in receiving free dental care may call a participating office to schedule an appointment. Spots fill up quickly, Roth said, so patients should call as early as possible to secure an appointment.

— Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.

Participating offices:

Starting Saturday, individuals without dental insurance or medical assistance may call a participating office to schedule an appointment.

Friday, Feb. 7

-- Belmont Dental, 3210 E. Market St. in Springettsbury Township, 8 a.m. to noon for children up to age 15. Call 848-1463.

-- Tri-Hill Family Dentistry, 1601 S. Queen St. in Spring Garden Township, 8:30 a.m. to noon for children. Call 854-9821.

-- Dr. Edward Roth and Dr. Timothy Roenigk, 745 S. Pleasant Ave. in York Township, noon to 3 p.m. for those 21 and under. Call 244-4094.

Thursday, Feb. 13

-- Dr. Daniel Shalkey, 1600 Sixth Ave. #109 in Spring Garden Township, 7 a.m. to noon for children and adults — no hygiene. Call 852-7475.

-- Dr. Steven Haywood, 4 S. Main St. in Shrewsbury, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for adults and children. Call 235-3871.

Friday, Feb. 14

-- Beautiful Smiles Family Dental Center, 564 Old York Road in Fairview Township, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for children 18 years old and younger. Call 938-1811.

-- Dr. David Dellinger, 1421 W. Market St. in West York, noon to 4 p.m. for adults and children. Call 845-5789.

Thursday, Feb. 20

-- Susquehanna Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, 16327 Mt. Airy Road in Shrewsbury Township, 1 to 5 p.m. for referred oral surgery from participating offices, children's exams and x-rays. Call 227-9959

-- DePasquale Dental, 3218 E. Market St. in Springettsbury Township, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for adults and children. Call 755-3061.

Friday, Feb. 21

-- 1447 Dental Associates, 1447 E. Market St. in Spring Garden Township, 1:30 to 4 p.m. for adults and children. Call 845-2771.

-- Dr. Veasey Cullen, 2300 Eastern Boulevard in Springettsbury Township, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for adult hygiene only. Call 755-1200.

Saturday, Feb. 22

-- Dr. John Blevins, 286 N. Main St. in New Salem, 8 a.m. to noon for adults and children. Call 792-0484.

Week of Monday, Feb. 24

-- Dr. Todd Seitz and Dr. Robert Ragland, 924-H Colonial Ave. in Spring Garden Township, referred oral surgery from participating offices for children only. Call 848-8822.

Friday, March 28

-- Aesthetic Dental Arts, 2340 Eastern Boulevard in Springettsbury Township, 8 a.m. to noon for adults. Call 755-4143.