Fresh smiles: Dental school donates free care for local servicemen and women

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) –  In honor of Veterans Day, The University at Buffalo Dental School of Medicine is thanking the nation’s service men and women by giving local veterans free screenings, cleanings, restorations, extractions and repairs.
The second “dentistry smiles on veterans day” event gives back to those who served our country in a unique way.

It was all smiles at Squire Hall Saturday. Bob Spencer, from Lockport and a Vietnam War Veteran said, “Right now i’m feeling great. It was a good experience. I had my teeth realigned and i’m going to be able to eat again.”

Spencer was quickly losing weight because he was having trouble chewing. He had to pay out of pocket for any dental care.

He said, “That’s originally how I wound up here, is because its less expensive then a private practice.”

We asked Korean War Veteran Jack Story why he drove more then 60 miles from Otto, New York to come to the free clinic. He said, “You look at my teeth, and you know why!”

He says he’s had some problems with his teeth over the past few years. He said it’s in part- because of the medication hes been taking. He said, “Now that I get that I can’t chew anymore, prime rib doesn’t look so good!”

So he’s ready for a full smile makeover. Like many other veterans here, his health care  doesn’t cover dental, so this service will be huge for him.

Brendan Dowd, Clinical Assistant Professor, with the UB School of Dental Medicine said. “The issue is a lot of people wait until they have a problem and then they come, and sometimes the care is a lot harder as opposed to routinely coming to the clinic here or going to private dentist.”

36 dentists and 9 hygienists volunteer on their own time on this day.  From cleanings to oral surgery, these veterans are getting the full treatment. “Joseph Zambon, Dean of the UB School of Dental Medicine said, “We can’t do enough for our veterans. Our veterans have done so much for us over the years.”

They’ll treat 180 veterans and find them whats called a “dental home,” which is somewhere to go for routine care.  Dr. Dowd said, “Close to half the people are afraid of seeing a dentist or they’re not close enough to a dentist, they can’t afford it, they don’t realize they have to come in to see a dentist.”

 

Dr. Zambon said, “I think a lot of the veterans came from a time when dental care was not regarded as being so important. I think that is different for more recent veterans. I think people understand the relationship between good oral health and good overall health.”

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