OC Rotary Club president works to get veterans free dental care

An Orange County Rotary Club president is calling on dentists and other Rotary Clubs across the nation to help veterans get free dental care.

Michael Joseph admitted his teeth were at the bottom of his to-do list.

The U.S. Marine Corps veteran was not eligible for dental insurance coverage. If he sees a dentist, it was out-of-pocket.

"It winds up being neglected a lot, because you don't have the funds necessary especially being a student," Joseph said.

Joseph was not alone.

Periodontist Joan Otomo-Corgel treated vets at the greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs medical center. She said veterans only got dental care coverage up to six months after the end of their service.
"But after that point in time, you are no longer under the umbrella of care for dentistry in the VA system," Otomo-Corgel said.

Helping Joseph and other vets in need is Steve Bender with his Smiles in a Box Program.

"Every veteran that has tried the program has loved it," Bender said.

Bender, the Rotary Club of Newport Beach president, is calling on other Rotary Clubs to recruit dentists in their communities to volunteer 20 hours in 2020.

"Any rotary club in the country can adopt or recruit one dentist to provide free services to 10 veterans," Bender said.
The goal is an exam, cleaning, follow-up and Livfresh gel for 2,000 veterans. Otomo-Corgel said the gel can help Joseph and other vets with their painful dental problems.

Livfresh donated $200,000 worth of gel to the Smiles in a Box program.

"Wonderful, just somebody having an organization out there that actually cares, because your teeth, you know, once they're in pain, it's very hard to be a functional person," Joseph said.

The commitment for dentists interested in volunteering in this program is six months.
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