Growing up in California, Sean Lee said he went to a high school that “probably closed the school on Veterans Day,” he said. “It was more of a day off for the students, and if I’m not mistaken, maybe a lot of us back then probably didn’t know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. It was more of a day off from school.”
But in 2019, the Department of Connecticut Legionnaire and dental officer in the Massachusetts National Guard was asked to speak at the Newtown High School Veterans Day program. The experience left him “ecstatic … and very blown away,” he said. “I was very, very pleasantly surprised that there was a lot of turnout, and there were a lot of vets I got to meet in the area.”
The experience also left Lee wanting to do something to give back to other veterans. His idea will come to fruition on Veterans Day, when Lee’s dental practice, Newtown Smile Dentistry, will provide free dental exams and no-cost treatments for veterans that day and, if necessary, into Nov. 12. Qualified veterans’ family members also may be provided treatment.
“The main reason is a lot of vets not seeking dental care,” said Lee, a member of George A. Powell Sr. Post 202 in Newtown. “A lot of the times I think it’s a lot to do with getting access to care. And if they’re not seeking care at all, most of the vets don’t realize what’s happening with their oral health, which is closely connected to pretty much everything else in the body.
“I wanted to see if we can provide dental care for these vets who may have had difficulty getting access to care. Perhaps this would be a time for them to at least get it checked out and see if we can provide a procedure that would benefit these vets that can be done in one dental visit setting. Perhaps a cleaning. Maybe fillings or even extractions on teeth that are infected. And also provide more of a segue or gateway to them getting more thorough care in the future.”
Lee said providing free dental care “is about the vets and about how me, as a dentist, can give back to the vets. And with this year being very unusual for the whole world … I thought maybe we can do something to make the year 2020 a little better for everyone, including the vets.”