United States Army veteran Gary Hanley, 65, says after years of neglecting his dental health, he finally decided to do something about it — but when he went to the dentist, he got a big shock.
"The dentist was on a sliding fee scale. I thought, ‘Great!’ I was going to get everything done for $600. That was like 10 years ago. He goes and retires and the dental people there, they would not touch me," said Hanley.
Hanley says the years have gone by without seeing a dentist because he simply can't afford it. Now, thanks to the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, Hanley is getting the dental service he needs.
"This is our fourth annual Dentistry Smiles on Veterans Day. We're reaching out to Western New York veterans who are in need of finding a dental home. So, we bring them in, take care of them with emergent care for the day: a cleaning, a filling, or an extraction, anything that needs to be done. We take x-rays, we update the medical history, and then the important part is we make an appointment for them to come back and be regular patients in the clinic," said Dr. Brendan Dowd, who oversees the programs.
Dowd says with the help of more than 150 students, the veterans who can't afford a dentist get the help they deserve.
"That's the beauty of this type of event. We're helping people who helped this country. They served our country so why not serve them for the day. I hear stories about veterans who got down on their luck, couldn't afford going for dental care. That last gentleman I just looked at, it's been seven years since he's seen a dentist. He's going to need a couple of teeth out. So, we're here to do that for no charge," said Dowd.
In the meantime, Hanley says he's grateful for the program and says when all the work is done, he's hoping he can do something he hasn't done in years.
"If I can eat steak. Yeah, I mean everything now is soft, everything now is soft," said Hanley.