HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Smiles by Design in Huntsville will offer free dental care to military veterans from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, according to our news partner.
The clinic is by appointment only and includes basic services such as teeth cleaning, extractions and fillings.
Started several years ago by Smiles by Design owner and dentist Yaritza Wright, the annual free clinic is for veterans who are either uninsured or underinsured.
Wright, who served two tours as a military dentist during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, began the free dental clinic because she recognized a number of veterans do not have access to proper dental care.
One man in particular stands out in her mind. He showed up to her first free clinic for veterans in 2016 with a mouthful of abscessed teeth.
“I don't know all of his story, but he didn't have proper dental care over the years and was in a tremendous amount of pain,” Wright said. “He told us that we saved his life.”
During the free clinic that year, Wright pulled two of his teeth and nine more once he became a patient.
“We do the clinic to fill the gap for our veterans,” she said. “A lot of people don't know this, but in order to get full dental care with the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) you have to be on 100-percent disability, and that clinic is all the way in Birmingham.”
The free clinic is also a way for Wright to honor her husband, who died in 2016.
“He was a Marine, and I think serving our military like this would make him very proud,” Wright said.
During the 2016 clinic, Wright and two hygienists from her office treated 31 patients. This year, they hope to handle 20 teeth-cleaning appointments and 10 dental care appointments. Appointments are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
The free clinic, held at the Smiles by Design office at 4601 Whitesburg Drive, Suite 202, is open to anyone who has served in the military. However, Wright asks that patients bring proof of service. For more details about the free clinic or to make an appointment, call 256-533-1611.