In 2021, a bill was introduced in House that seeks to expand the healthcare services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This is H.R. 914, or Dental Care for Veterans Act.
H.R. 914 aims to make all veterans who are eligible for the VA healthcare system qualified for VA-provided dental care services. As of this writing, only veterans with service-related oral health problems are eligible for VA-provided dental care services.
When passed into law, all veterans will be given a chance to maintain a healthy mouth, including:
- Those with a service-related disability
- Those who’ve been prisoners of war
- Those who are Purple Heart awardees
- Those who are in need of financial assistance
If this bill turns into law, veterans don’t have to worry about finding or paying for proper dental and oral care.
Why Is Dental Care Essential For Veterans?
Proper oral and dental care is important for veterans. However, because of their old age and the nature of their profession, they may find taking care of their teeth challenging.
Military personnel typically move from one base to another. Unfortunately, military bases and stations are often far from their hometown. This is why they often neglect proper dental care, particularly regular dental checkups.
In addition, military combat may result in severe dental injuries that often require dental procedures such as dentures, implants, etc. Plus, exposure to harmful chemicals like herbicides and asbestos may affect medical health, including dental conditions.
What Are The Dental Procedures VA Covers?
These are the procedures crucial to the overall mouth health of most veterans:
- Complete Or Partial Dentures
Dentures are removable, synthetic teeth made of metal, nylon, or acrylic and are used to replace the missing teeth of veterans, especially those who suffer physical trauma. There are two types of dentures available for veterans: complete and partial.
Dental professionals may recommend complete dentures if all your teeth have gone missing. Otherwise, partial dentures may be used instead, which are ideal if there are still natural teeth remaining.
- Dental Implants
VA may provide dental implants for most veterans at no cost as long as they’re eligible to do so. But first, what are dental implants?
Dental implants are posts made of metal lodged in the jawbone. They provide a strong foundation for artificial teeth and bridges, preventing them from shifting in your mouth, especially when speaking and eating.
In addition, dental implants feel more natural compared to other dental restoration procedures, particularly traditional dentures. Knowing the difference in dentures and implants can help you decide which is best for your condition.
If you’re currently using partial dentures, you may consider replacing them with implants for a more natural feel. However, you must have healthy gums and jawbones to provide optimum support for the implant.
- Regular Teeth Cleaning And X-Rays
Veterans are advised to visit a dentist every six months for regular teeth cleaning, just like everyone else. This is important to prevent plaque buildup that may cause serious dental and oral health problems such as gum disease, tooth decay, and periodontitis.
How is teeth cleaning performed? Knowing the following steps may help reduce dental anxiety and stress, allowing you to enjoy fresher results:
- The first step examines the entire mouth to determine if it’s safe to proceed.
- The second step refers to plaque and tartar buildup removal.
- The third step deals with toothpaste cleaning using a high-powered electric toothbrush.
- The fourth step involves professional flossing where even hard-to-reach areas are flossed.
- The fifth step is to rinse the mouth with a liquid fluoride solution to eliminate any debris.
- The sixth step applies fluoride treatment to protect teeth from cavities.
Aside from regular teeth cleaning, VA also covers X-ray tests. These tests help dentists determine the condition of your teeth from the inside, allowing them to provide better and more accurate treatment options.
- Restorative Dental Procedures
Restorative dental procedures aim to restore the overall function of the mouth, in addition to its appearance. Some examples include dental fillings, bridges, and crowns.
Dental fillings are made of one or a combination of metals, glass, plastics, or other materials. They help treat small holes and tooth cavities, restoring teeth’s normal shape and function.
Dental bridges are permanent replacements for missing teeth. They consist of one or two crowns for anchoring natural teeth—abutments—and artificial teeth to fill in the gaps between teeth.
Lastly, dental crowns are tooth-shaped caps that cover the surface of damaged teeth. Like fillings, they help treat cavities and holes, protecting and restoring your teeth’s normal shape and function.
- Oral And Maxillofacial Surgery
Oral surgery is an umbrella term used to describe any operation involving teeth, jaw, gums, and other oral and facial structures. These may include corrective jaw surgery, periodontal grafting, bone grafting, tooth extraction, and others.
Maxillofacial surgery is a branch of oral surgery that aims to correct an injury, disease, or defect in the mouth, jaw, or face. This is ideal for veterans who suffered physical trauma, causing their faces to be deformed.
Maxillofacial surgery includes facial injury and trauma surgery, cancer treatment involving oral, head, and neck, cleft lip surgery, palate surgery, facial pain treatment, wisdom teeth extraction, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) surgery.
How To Qualify For VA Dental Care Services?
To be eligible for VA dental care services, you must meet at least one of the following conditions:
- Must have a 100% service-connected rating, including those under Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDUI)
- Must have at least a 10% VA rating
- Must be a former prisoner of war
- Must have a combat-related dental injury rated at 0%
- Must have aggravating service-connected dental issues
- Must be enrolled in the Veterans Readiness and Employment (VR&E) Program
- Must have a dental condition that prevents you from working or rehabilitating
- Must be receiving VA care
- Must be enrolled in a VA-supported program for homeless veterans
If you qualify for at least one of the conditions above, you may be able to receive all dental care services through the VA at no cost to keep your teeth functioning.
Dental care is essential for veterans, especially those with combat-related service-connected oral and dental issues. It helps treat and correct issues to restore the teeth’s natural structure, function, and appearance. Through the VA, you’ll be able to keep your teeth functioning free of cost.