Western New York veterans have a reason to smile.
In honor of the service veterans have provided the country, the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine will host its first "Dentistry Smiles on Veterans" program - a day of free dental screenings, cleanings and repairs for local veterans.
The event, a part of National Prosthodontics Awareness Week, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18 at the UB Dental Clinic in Squire Hall on the South Campus.
The program, sponsored by the SDM and Eighth District Dental Society, will provide service to nearly 100 veterans who were honorably discharged after 1990.
Eligible veterans may call ahead to 716-829-2780 to schedule an appointment.
"We want to instill in all of our services and students that there is a responsibility to give back," said Stephen Abel, SDM associate dean for student affairs and community and professional initiatives. "When we give you your dental degree or when you receive a license to practice, the implicit message in there is that you return something back to the community. 'Dentistry Smiles on Veterans' shows the students that the school, in general, is giving back."
During the program, which will include a proclamation from Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, the UB Police Honor Guard will lead a procession into the clinic.
Throughout the day, more than one 100 Buffalo-area dentists and hygienists and UB dental students and faculty will volunteer to provide everything from a simple cleaning to oral surgery.
Contrary to popular belief, most veterans do not receive health care coverage through the Veterans Health Administration. The benefit is reserved for those who received service-related injuries. As a result, 1.2 million veterans are without health insurance - which equates to roughly one in 10 veterans, according to the Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey.
"I think this is probably one of the most important communities that the dental school can reach out to," said Bob Van Wicklin, an officer in the United States Navy Reserve was who deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and is now SDM assistant dean for development and alumni relations. "For people who leave military service, dental care is the one thing that is difficult for them to obtain. This is an important initiative and, hopefully, something that expands in the future."