Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Vets Find Free Dental Care and More at CVTC

Fourth annual Give Vets a Smile Event expanded

Article Photo - Vets Find Free Dental Care and More at CVTC

Ciara Smith, a CVTC Dental Hygienist student from Arcadia, checks out an infected tool that U.S. Army veteran David Franzwa of Mondovi came to have extracted at the Give Vets a Smile Day event at the CVTC Dental Clinic Saturday, Nov. 3. This year, the event featured an expanded list of free services for vets, from additional health services to haircuts and chair massages.

David Franzwa waited his turn at the Give Vets a Smile event at Chippewa Valley Technical College Saturday, Nov. 3, enduring the last few minutes of a pain he’s felt for quite a while.

“I’ve had a tooth that’s been bothering me since I was 70. I’ll be 74 in February,” said Franzwa, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran from Mondovi. “It would hurt for a while, then calm down, then it flared up and my jaw swelled up. I went to the VA in Tomah and they told me to come up here. I didn’t even know they had this for veterans.”

It was the fourth annual Give Vets a Smile event at CVTC, and the only such event in Wisconsin, as far as the originator, CVTC Dental Hygienist Instructor Pam Entorf knows. The event offers free dental care to veterans, who do not have dental care as part of the regular veterans’ benefits, unless the problem is service-related. Approximately 75 veterans are served each year by local dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and CVTC students and faculty volunteering their time.

This year, a broad range of services were added for the veterans, including COPD screening, nutrition screening and diabetes education, flu shots, assistive device assessments and recommendations and even free haircuts and chair massages.

“We’re providing a myriad of services, like cleanings, exams, fillings, extractions, and minor denture repair,” said Dr. Randy Shook, an Eau Claire dentist from Regis Court Dental and himself an Air Force veteran. “It’s more basic care, where they have dental pain or a broken off tooth. Most of them are not seeing a dentist on a regular basis.”

Franzwa got the extraction he so desperately needed, but declined to have several other broken teeth removed. He noted that a Mondovi dentist made him his upper dentures sometime in the mid-1980s, but other than that, he hadn’t seen a dentist since the late 60s. He served in the Army from 1964-69.

Terry Pettis of Augusta had a similar story.

“I need tooth work real bad,” Pettis said. “I want to say it was 12 years ago that I saw a dentist. I’m not proud of that.”

He is proud of his service in the Marine Crops from 1970-74. He had orders to go to Saigon during the Vietnam War, but those were cancelled and he ended up all over the Pacific.

“All my medical is through the VA,” he said. “I don’t have any other dental or health insurance. The company I worked for got rid of our insurance in ’08.”

“These are people who fall through the cracks, and they need help,” Shook said. “Last year I extracted an infected tooth from a patient and this year he told me he didn’t know how sick that was making him until the tooth was out.”

The expanded services at Give Vets a Smile Day were organized by CVTC Respiratory Therapy Instructor Donald Raymond.

“We wanted to provide better services for the veterans and also provide interdisciplinary experiences for our students,” Raymond said. “We’ve involved students from Health Information Management Technology (HIMT), Associate Degree Nursing, Dental Assistant, Dental Hygienist, Respiratory Therapy, Barber-Cosmetology, and Physical Therapy Assistant. Veterans meet the students right out of the dental area and lead them to the other areas.”

Entorf said the event involves many community partners.

“Delta Dental has sponsored the dental materials and marketing. Prevea Health is a new partner and donated 100 flu shots and have a medical resident and their medical director here working with our Nursing students,” Entorf said. “HIMT is handling all the records, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks provided food and coffee for veterans and volunteers. We have dentists from all over the area, and one dentist from Madison is here.”

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