Giving Veterans a Reason to Smile

Nov 21, 2018
Supplied Photo

In 2012, Dr. Deryk Pham, a dentist in Mays Landing, held a “Veterans Smile Day” to offer free dental care to men and women who served in the military. His office performed everything from routine dental services such as X-rays, exams, cleanings and fillings, to root canals and extractions for veterans who did not qualify for dental care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Pham was in the Navy for three years, and served as a U.S. Navy dentist deployed to Iraq with the Marines. He saw firsthand what was occurring to the physical and mental health of members of the military. When Pham got out of the Navy in 2007, he knew he wanted to give back to the veterans.

“I knew veterans didn’t get the dental care they needed,” he said. “Less than 1 percent of veterans receive dental insurance.” Many veterans do not receive full health care benefits upon returning from active duty.

Since that November day in 2012, “Veterans Smile Day” has grown into a national event with more than 600 dental offices participating. On Nov. 16, it made its way to All About Smiles Dentistry in Lacey Township.

“This is our first year, and we plan to make this an annual event,” said Dr. Louann Van Liew, All About Smiles owner. “It’s a great opportunity to give back to people who have given so much.”

Kathryn Revas, office manager, said on that morning, 15 veterans were seen. Three were referred to a nearby oral surgeon, Dr. Stephen Glawson, whom Revas said was also offering free services.

“This is terrific,” said Alan Gurvitz, who served in the Army for nearly 25 years before retiring as a major in 1996.

Gurvitz had once attended Pham’s clinic in Mays Landing, but said it is nicer “that they’re bringing this closer to home.”

Dave Rehberger, a Korean War Navy veteran from Forked River, showed up because he needed a filling.

“This is a great service, and I’m very appreciative of what they’re doing,” he said.

Revas said refreshments were donated by various businesses, including Forked River German Butcher, Manhattan Bagel, Realtor Kari Biele of Pacesetter Realty and Wawa. Sunflowers Florist brought in a patriotic-themed bouquet.

“The men who came sat around and talked with each other,” said Revas. “Some of them shared resources  where to get help. It was a wonderful day, and we can’t wait to do it again.”

— Eric Englund

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