Campus News

UB Dental honors vets with free care

Give vets a smile day

Dentistry Smiles on Veterans aims to provide free dental care to local veterans. Photo: Jason Chwirut

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published April 23, 2015

Video

Click to play video

UB Dental's Dentistry Smiles on Veterans program provided a day of free dental care for local veterans.

In honor of the service veterans have provided the country, the School of Dental Medicine (SDM) hosted its first Dentistry Smiles on Veterans program, a day of free dental screenings, cleanings and repairs for local veterans.

The program, part of National Prosthodontics Awareness Week, served nearly 90 veterans.

“We feel as a community that we need to give back to our veterans,” said Dean Michael Glick. “They have sacrificed a lot. Many veterans don’t have dental benefits through the Veterans Administration system, and that’s the gap that we’re trying to fill here.”

The event, sponsored by the SDM and Eighth District Dental Society, was held on April 18. Pro bono care was offered to veterans who were honorably discharged after 1990.

During the program, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown delivered a proclamation following a procession lead by the UB Army ROTC Color Guard.

Throughout the day, more than 50 Buffalo-area dentists and hygienists, and dozens of UB dental students, faculty and staff volunteered to provide everything from a simple cleaning to oral surgery.

“From the first year, we’re in a class that we are taught the importance of outreach and how to develop outreach programs,” said dental student Amber Rosenberg. “But it’s incredible to actually be able to give care. We owe a lot to them.”

Contrary to popular belief, most veterans do not receive dental coverage through the Veterans Health Administration. The benefit is reserved for those who received service-related injuries.

Dental care is one of the greatest problems in the military, due in part to the large amounts of coffee and soda soldiers drink to stay awake while on long shifts, said Paula Kohl, a U.S. Navy veteran who received treatment at the event.

“I think this is probably one of the most important communities that the dental school can reach out to,” added Bob Van Wicklin, an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve was who deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and is now SDM assistant dean for development and alumni relations.

“For people who leave military service, dental care is the one thing that is difficult for them to obtain.”

The dental school plans to make the Dentistry Smiles on Veterans program an annual event. It will join other UB Dental outreach initiatives, among them Give Kids a Smile Day, Campaign for Healthy Smiles and the Rural Dentistry Program.

That news will likely go over well with U.S. Army veteran Robert Felton, one of the event’s patients, who called the program “too good to be true.”