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The veterans that return to America from our wars abroad often come home with a range of ailments such as various wounds or post traumatic stress disorder. However, one common problem among veterans that is often not treated is their teeth. David Wilhite DDS provides dental care to returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq through the Rebuilding America’s Warriors foundation. Their most recent patient through this foundation is army veteran Tim Seckel.
Tim Seckel is a veteran of the Iraq war and is currently suffering from a broken back and traumatic brain injury that he sustained while serving in Baghdad. He also came back with dental problems that consistently caused him considerable pain. The high stress level from combat combined with poor dental hygiene and the consumption of high sugar energy drinks has caused extreme dental problems for many veterans of Iraq including Seckel.
“It felt like a constant root canal,” says Seckel. “Not just throbbing pain, but actual sharp pain. Anything I drank, anything I ate, anytime I talked . . . it was just a constant reminder. I was in pain constantly.”
The Veterans Administration does not provide coverage for dental care unless the veteran is 100 percent disabled so many do not get the dental care that they need. The Wilhites have treated 22 veterans of the Iraq war at their own cost through the Rebuilding America’s Warriors foundation which provides free dental care to personnel who served on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Wilhites have offered their services for the foundation after discovering the huge need for dental care among veterans.
“They’re in pretty bad shape,” says Dr. David Wilhite. “They have extensive decay and extensive gum disease. Many times, they have to have root canals and crowns. Many have needed implants, and some of them have had to have restoration or fillings on every tooth in their mouth.”
Nancy Wilhite has recruited five dental care providers in the state of Texas along with two dental implant manufacturers to provide care through the Rebuilding America’s Warriors foundation. The Wilhites are proud of the work they have done for this nation’s veterans and are encouraging other dental care providers across the country to provide care through the foundation.
“There’s very few dentists doing this, and I think a lot of it is they just don’t know about it,” says Nancy Wilhite. “We need to get the word out there that these men really need our help. Their mouths are in terrible shape. It’s not just one or two teeth hurting; they’re in terrible shape.”
The veterans that have been treated by the Wilhites such as Seckel are very grateful to them and have even built special relationships with them.
“Dr. Wilhite’s really given me my life back, him and his wife and the staff here,” says Seckel. “It’s been incredible, life-changing.”