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Kitsap County Veterans get something to smile about

About 50 indigent Kitsap County veterans received free dental care late last month, after their needs were noticed at a Stand Down event in May.

“This accomplished a great deal,” said Carol Bruce, a nurse with the Kitsap County Health District Oral Health Program. “People who were in pain were able to get the dental work they needed but could not afford.”

After the Stand Down event the Kitsap County Oral Health Coalition contacted the veterans in need, along with local dentists (many of whom are veterans themselves) in a request for their services on a volunteer basis.

One local dentist donated the use of his clinic on June 28, providing an estimated $10,000 in dental services.

This included 24 extractions, 46 fillings, seven cleanings, 15 exams and several X-rays.

“Fillings can cost upwards of $300 each,” Bruce said. “If someone needs to have multiple teeth pulled, that can get quite expensive.”

Fifty veterans were surveyed during the Stand Down, with more than 11 percent of these reporting use of the local emergency room for dental needs. Asked why they had not seen the dentist prior to the emergency visits, they said high costs and a fear factor kept them away.

Organizers said they received warm thanks from the veterans who benefited from the service.

Among the comments, reported by nurse Tina Soete: “Everyone was so nice,” “I can’t believe how good I feel after everything I got done,” “I was treated so well and everyone was nice and professional,” “I can’t believe that people are generous and care to help us. I really appreciate what they do,” and, “There is a special place in heaven for everyone there.”

Even as a handful of veterans are now walking around in less pain, there are no current plans to sustain the program.

Similar outreach is planned for the next Stand Down, which could take place in the fall.

In the meantime, indigent veterans in immediate need of dental care have no number to call, other than the emergency room and the VA hospital.

“I would like to see all the local dentists volunteer some of their time,” said Kathy Hamlett, who helped to organize the event. “They should all absorb some of this need.”

Even if there is no immediate follow up, supporters perceive the effort as a good beginning.

“The Health District and the local dentist and hygeniest societies work in helping Kitsap veterans with their dental problems has been phenomenal,” said Human Services Planner Leif Bentsen of the Kitsap County Veterans Assistance Program. “They are a wonderful group of caring people.”

“The camaraderie and selflessness demonstrated on that date was wonderful,” Bruce said about the effort. “If other volunteers could experience such a positive day of giving, we would have an abundantly sustainable work force for these events.”

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