Veterans get free dental care

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BENNINGTON — Some came for a simple cleaning. Others needed fillings, extractions, root canals and partial dentures.

By the end of the day Friday, 37 veterans had received free dental care at the Bennington Dental Center. It was the fourth year that the center had held a free care day for veterans, and the turnout was brisk, with some arriving an hour before the 8 a.m. opening.

Veterans were seen on a first come, first served basis. Everyone was promised at least one procedure — a filling, a single extraction — and no one was turned away.

Doctors Tyler and Betsy Carmack and their staff — Dr. Cody Spencer, Evan Galle, Pam Mort, Angie Griffin, Katie Lilack, Collette McClellan, Hannah McGurn and Karen Kaufmann — all volunteered their time for the clinic, some reporting in on their days off. Joe De Leon of Classic Dental Laboratory was on hand to make dentures, and Corey Mears of Ramunto's provided lunch.

Kenneth Lorette, an Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam War, came hoping that he could have some teeth extracted. Instead, he was told that many of them could be saved. "They're going to refill all the fillings that I've got, that have been in since the Sixties," he said. "They're going to cap this one, cap that one, and make up a partial [plate] on the bottom."

Lorette pointed out that Veterans Administration care does not provide dental coverage. "I don't know why they don't," he said. One single extraction done by another dentist, he added, cost him $365 out of pocket.

"Tyler and his wife, they're outstanding people. Fabulous," he said.

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Tyler Carmack said he and Betsy began offering the clinic four years ago, as a way of celebrating their May 14 wedding anniversary. "We were trying to figure out how to give back," he said.

"We live in a community, either you just gripe about things, complain about things, or you do something," he said. "If I was a baker, I'd bake bread. I just ended up being a dentist."

Why free dental care for veterans? "They deserve it," he said. "They signed a blank check to defend this country we live in, and a lot of them don't have dental insurance, a lot of them don't have medical either. If you're willing to sacrifice everything, I just feel they're deserving."

"I think it's fabulous," said Albert Krawczyk of Bennington, who'd come to have a broken tooth taken care of. "I think it's very helpful for a lot of the veterans, because obviously it's a needed thing."

Krawczyk recalled breaking a tooth while serving with the Army during the Korean War. A military dentist rounded off the jagged edge. But when the rest of the tooth broke off, 15 years later, he had to pay for the work. "The VA doesn't handle anything like this," he said.

"We're all aging, getting up there, and financially, speaking for myself, we're living almost day to day. It's tough to get something done."

"Our staff looks forward to doing this every year," Tyler Carmack said. "Every year our staff encourages us to do it, because they love doing it."

Reach David LaChance at dlachance@benningtonbanner.com.


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