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WVU School of Dentistry provides free dental care to veterans

Second annual Veterans Oral Health Day held Nov. 13

Soldiers, healers and donors combined strengths for the second year in a row to honor West Virginia veterans and help improve their wellbeing.

Student dentists and student hygienists from West Virginia University School of Dentistry treated more than 50 men and women in the WVU Dental Care clinics in Morgantown Friday, November 13, during the school’s second annual Veterans Oral Health Day.

In 2019, the School of Dentistry and the WVU Center for Veterans, Military and Family Programs sought support for a program that would offer free dental screenings to veterans as well as active National Guard and Reservists at WVU from around the state. The result was the creation of the Borgia Family Veteran’s Oral Health Care fund.

Martha Sturms, senior administrative assistant at the School of Dentistry, was among the first to donate to the cause. “They deserve so much,” Sturms said of current and former members of the military. Her father was a World War II veteran. Her husband was a Vietnam Veteran and a 20-year retiree of the United States Air Force. “This is just a small way I can honor and give back to those who have served and continue to serve our country,” she said.

The estimated cost of the screenings is $250 per patient. Veterans receive a comprehensive examination, X-rays, a cleaning and treatment including fillings and extractions. Veterans whose treatment could not be completed Friday are scheduled for follow up care.

Taiwo Adelusi, a WVU ROTC cadet, was one of the first patients in a dental chair for an exam Friday morning.

Adelusi is a graduate student in the sports management program. He learned of the free oral health clinic through the WVU veteran’s center. “There’s no getting around your teeth,”Adelusi said. “Oral health is important. If you have an opportunity come in, I think it’s very good.”

A reservist receives care from a dental and dental hygiene student.

Reservist Thomas Frederick also heard about the dental clinic from the WVU veteran’s center. Prior to the message, he was unaware patients could be treated by student dentists and hygienists.  Jason Solensky, a third-year dental student, and Samantha Roberts, a senior dental hygiene student, were both involved in Frederick’s care.

This was Solensky’s first time volunteering for the veteran’s clinic. “You couldn’t ask for a better Veterans Day than at WVU,” Solensky said. “Everything is nicely orchestrated, well laid out and well organized. You see everyone giving back. I couldn’t be happier to be here.”

Roberts will graduate in the spring. The event inspired her interest in caring for veterans when she enters private practice. “I love that we are able to provide oral health care to our veterans in this environment,” Roberts said. “I like that it provides an opportunity to get to know the veterans in our community and allows them to tell their stories and experiences. I think it’s a way of saying thank you and giving back to our veterans.”

Adelusi will return to active military service in the Army following the completion of his degree. While he does not anticipate getting to take advantage of the free clinic next year, with continued support, the university’s community of veterans and their comrades across the state should be able to.

Donations are still being accepted for the Borgia Family Veteran’s Oral Health Care fund, named for previous School of Dentistry dean, Dr. Anthony “Tom” Borgia. In some cases, veterans who are determined to need extensive follow up care can benefit from additional funds.

If you are interested in supporting oral healthcare treatment for veterans, you can make a gift online to the veteran’s support fund through the WVU Foundation.