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Free Dental Clinic For Veterans Already Full

Courtesy of the American Dental Association
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and Dr. Zack Kalarickal, stand outside the U.S. Capitol building. The two men teamed up to provide dental care to former military .

A one-day, free dental clinic for military veterans will open its doors Friday to provide urgent care from root canals to tooth fillings. And there are no empty chairs.

That’s because the second annual “Stars, Stripes and Smiles” event, organized by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and the West Pasco Dental Association, has already filled its allotted 75 slots. But veterans’ names are still being taken for a waiting list.

“I will be there most of the time,” Bilirakis said. “So, if veterans want to come and talk with me on particular issues or future case work, please have them come. We’ll have staff there as well.”

Last year, the clinic served 48 veterans. This year, the clinic expanded to 75 slots, but those filled up quickly. Bilirakis said that’s because veterans’ dental care is very limited at the VA.

“To qualify, you have to be 100 percent disabled, or if there’s any kind of combat injury to the teeth.”

Bilirakis wants to expand VA dental care. But in the meantime, he is working with volunteer dentists in the community to help veterans.

Veterans can call Bilirakis’ office at 727-232-2921 to be put on a waiting list in case there’s a cancellation or to be first in line for the next dental clinic.

The “Stars, Stripes and Smiles” dental clinic is scheduled Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pasco-Hernando State College, West Pasco Campus, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey, FL.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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