More than 70 U.S. military veterans received urgent, palliative, therapeutic and/or preventive dental care for free during the fifth annual “Give Vets a Smile” event Nov. 8 at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Dentistry.
Senior dental hygiene students and residents from the Advanced Education in General Dentistry, General Practice Residency, and Graduate Endodontics programs provided 374 treatments valued at an estimated $42,200.
“This event is an annual opportunity to help uninsured veterans in need of pain relief,” said Margo Melchor, RDH, EdD, community outreach director for UTSD.
Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth was responsible for identifying and registering veterans for the event, and nursing students also volunteered on treatment day to take vital signs and help the veterans. A dental resident, dental student and/or dental hygiene student saw each veteran who was invited to participate.
The event has grown every year, said Bridgette Pullis, PhD, RN, professor and director of the Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program at the School of Nursing. “This event focuses on providing dental care to homeless and at-risk veterans — an initiative that was started five years ago after my students and I noted the great need for dental care among veterans," she said.
The veterans in need were identified by Easter Seals Greater Houston, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Women Veteran Services, The Salvation Army, Harris County Precinct 2 Veterans Services, U.S. Vets-Houston, Goodwill Women’s Veteran Program, and Combined Arms.
Delta Dental Community Care Foundation was the major sponsor for the event, and Procter & Gamble donated two electric toothbrushes as raffle prizes.