The dental care provided to veterans once they’re out of the military is nothing to smile about, but dentist Nicole Carnicella gave them a reason to grin from ear to ear.
Carnicella’s practice, located at 212 Kenlee Dr. in Bellefonte, hosted a free dental care day for veterans for the third time since 2015. The event was again held prior to Veterans Day.
Carnicella’s work led her to be in a master’s group in the Academy of General Dentistry, and the organization’s philosophy is partly about giving back to the community. She took action in honor of her late stepfather Paul Whinnie, an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War.
“He had OK dental care, because he was also a teacher, but the care he had gotten while he was in the military and right after he got out really put him behind the 8-ball to begin with,” she said. “In researching it, I found out veterans do not have any dental benefits ... After they are out they have no dental unless they’re fully disabled. If they are fully disabled, they have to go the full way to Altoona for some work or the whole way to Pittsburgh.”
The number of veterans who have signed up for the event has just about doubled since its inception, from 35 to 70. Carnicella said part of the reason for Friday’s spike in participation is due to a WTAJ story earlier in the week.
The bigger picture, Carnicella said, is to spread awareness to get veterans better dental care.
“I’m not scratching the surface of what they need,” she said. “This is one small snapshot of what they’ve gone through. Some of them are missing their front teeth. How are they going to smile in a job interview if they don’t have a front tooth?”
Carnicella expects the effort to grow in 2018 and knows dental colleagues who want to help.
“I want to get them in, maybe have a second day and some follow-up days,” she said. “If just today doesn’t show the higher-ups the need for some type of clinic where these guys can go daily, I mean, I have lists of 10 to 15 more things these veterans need. I can’t even get to those things today, so I’m keeping a tally to get them help.”
Honor our veterans on Saturday
Community members are invited to the Centre County Courthouse, 102 S. Allegheny St., Bellefonte, at 11 a.m. Saturday for the annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony. Various area veterans organizations will be represented, and the Bellefonte Area High School band is slated to perform.
Also on Saturday, a military flyover will take place during the pregame ceremonies for the Penn State-Rutgers football game. U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets are scheduled to fly over Beaver Stadium immediately following the national anthem, at about 11:43 a.m. The planes will be flying from the south as they approach the stadium.