• Oct 7, 2022
  • 5:09 AM

Free Dental Care Offered For Eligible Veterans

By: Chuck N. Baker  

(Las Vegas) — There are several organizations serving veterans who are sometimes forgotten in times of need. Unfortunately, many lower income veterans often are forgotten when they are unable to afford professional dental care. That’s when Adopt a Vet Dental (AAVD) program steps in with a cadre of dentists who treat oral decay, denture repair and restorations, and who offer other emergency and/or critical care. In place in Northern Nevada for several years, the organization has now expanded south to treat eligible veterans in and around the Las Vegas area. 

Locally the Program Manager is Chere’ Pedersen, in charge of qualifying veterans and signing up dentists to participate in the program. She explained how she is beginning to establish the service in the south. “I thought the easiest thing to do was to go and talk to my own dentist,” she said. “So that’s what I did. Once I got him to fill out the paperwork, I then asked him for two more dentists that he thought might want to join us, and also about his lab. We want to have everything done here in Nevada.”  

The lab she signed up gave her a list of other local dentists that she approached. “We do all the paperwork for dentists, and we know everything that’s going on before we match a veteran with a dentist.”  

Pedersen said currently, her oldest patient is a WWII veteran who is 92. Another WWII veteran quoted in an organization brochure said he was so pleased with his dentist, “He offered to stand on his head for him,” to which Pedersen quipped, that’s not required. 

Pedersen explained, “There’s a big misconception out there that people think most veterans can just go to the VA for dental care. Actually, there’s only about five percent that qualify. That would be if you were a POW, or if you injured your mouth while you were in combat or if you are 100 percent disabled.”  

This means many hundreds of veterans are left with no dental care. There are many qualifications required for veterans. A few of them include being below 150 percent of federal guidelines of low income, being enrolled at the VA with a primary care provider, being a full-time Nevada resident, and not having any form of dental insurance. Pedersen added, “You know, their health is at risk. When veterans have a mouth full of decaying teeth and have not been to a dentist since they were in the military, especially older veterans from WWII, Korea and Vietnam, it affects their all around health.” Just a few of the health risks that can arise from teeth not being cared for include cardiovascular disease, where it is believed that clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to inflammations and infections caused by oral bacteria; pneumonia, caused by certain bacteria in the mouth that can be pulled into the lungs; and diabetes, as gum disease reduces the body’s resistance to infection. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes.  

Veterans who believe they qualify for the program are urged to phone Pedersen at (702) 626-0670. Once she speaks with them, if it appears that they are qualified, the veteran comes in with the required paperwork and fills out additional forms to determine what type of dental work is needed. Then, they are matched with a dentist. Just how many dentists are there in Southern Nevada? “Literally, thousands! Just start driving and take a look,” she exclaimed. “On every corner there’s a dentist, there’s an orthodontist, there’s an oral surgeon!” At the same time, there are many veterans who are eligible for treatment. All they have to do is call Pedersen. She promises they won’t get the brush off. 

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