Dental H.O.M.E. Coach at the
Cincinnati Veterans Memorial Hospital
On 9/11/09 the Dental H.O.M.E. Coach traveled to the Cincinnati Veterans Memorial Hospital. This event was to remind us of those who so bravely serve our nation in every division of the armed forces. However, on this day in Cincinnati several area dentists volunteered to help those vets who do not have health insurance benefits to cover oral health care. According to Sara Mohn “The emergency room medical personnel repeatedly encounter the same patients for pain and infections due to needed dental care”.
The OSU Dental H.O.M.E. Coach staff assisted Cincinnati area dentists in screening over 120 Veterans from the area. The extent of need seemed overwhelming to the volunteer dentists. Follow up care will be provided free of charge by area dentists coordinated by the Cincinnati Dental Association.
Tom Holtman, Chief of Dental Services said that only 8% of all vets qualify for dental care. This is opposed to at least 10 patients a day in the emergency room with serious oral health care needs who do not qualify for dental services. The 8% that do qualify have been 100% service connected, prisoners of war, or disabled due to an injury of war.
There is another side to this story which began with a promise that the U.S. Government made to service men at the time of World War II. Service people where promised a lifetime of health insurance benefits to include dental. Somewhere along the way the promise was taken back for most which left service men that were compromised with long term effects of war without oral health care. To this day vets receive medical and vision care but dental care was dropped from the package. On 9/11/09 Cincinnati area vets waited for over 2 hours for a screening by a local dentist in hopes of getting the treatment they so desperately needed.
As patients stood in line we met people like Veteran Tom Williams who entered the Navy at age 18, served 4 years, and then re-enlisted with the army twice for 8 years. When he got out of the service he went to college and got a two year degree then started selling cars at a local dealership in Cincinnati. Two years ago as the U.S. auto industry crashed Tom lost his job and is now working as a house painter with his father. He has a tooth that is broken and he needs help from a dentist. He hopes to get back on his feet soon. He sometimes wonders if working so many years for the government was the right thing to do. He was grateful for the screening and thanked members of OSU many times as he waited in line for over an hour to simply speak to a dentist.
At the registration table a middle aged Veteran appeared who said he had been in the Gulf War. He said he had not long ago gotten out of rehabilitation for the use of heroin however, he was back using again because it was the only thing that would kill the pain of his dental problems. He said he was self medicating and needed help with his teeth to kick the addiction for once and all.
Another Veteran had served in the Vietnam War as an aviation specialist. He said he had been shot down mid air 3 times during his service. He thought he would have dental benefits for the rest of his life when he enlisted but that is no longer the case. He does not remember the last time he saw a dentist.