Dental care is one of the most underserved needs of veterans in the United States. Even after risking their lives to serve our country, many veterans do not qualify for dental care through the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Currently, in order to receive free dental care and treatments after active duty, you must have a dental disability related to your time in the service, have 100 percent disability, or have endured being a prisoner of war.
These are pretty specific qualifications, and thousands of veterans don’t meet them and can’t get the dental care they need. According to the VA, dental care is ranked by homeless veterans as one of their top three unmet needs, along with long-term permanent housing and childcare.
Here at Shamblott Family Dentistry, we are passionate about giving back to our community through philanthropy and service-based projects. In 2015, we created an event to help veterans in Hopkins and the surrounding areas get the dental care they need. Operation Open Wide is now an annual special event serving and honoring veterans in the Twin Cities area. During this event, my staff and I provide free cleanings, exams, and procedures to veterans in need. The importance of regular dental care for veterans can’t be overstated. By providing diagnosis and treatment, we can help veterans’ appearance, health, and overall quality of life. There are many health issues that can arise as a result of neglected oral health. Those who are unable to go to the dentist regularly have a much higher risk of cardiovascular or heart disease, diabetic complications, lung infections, and dementia.
Decline in dental health can also lead to noticeable cosmetic issues, such as missing, discolored, or decayed teeth. On top of these problems posing potential health risks, they can cause a lack of confidence and make it more difficult for veterans to secure employment. By getting their oral health back on track, veterans can lead a full, long, and healthy life with fewer health complications and more genuine smiles.
We provide any dental service that each participating veteran might need, from simple fillings to complete dentures. It’s humbling to hear our veteran’s amazing stories about serving our country and learning from them first-hand how they were, or weren’t, welcomed back home. Being able to make a difference in their lives and help them be happier and healthier is very rewarding for the whole team.
Last year’s event was in partnership with Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Communities. Look for our next blog post for more information about this year’s partnership! This year’s event will take place during June and July and is already fully booked. Operation Open Wide will serve sixteen veterans in need of dental treatment. The initial examination will be about forty-five minutes long and take place on June 12th, and the recommended dental services will then be completed on July 2nd.
For information on future programs, please contact your local Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Community.