On Veterans Day 2016 a small group of well-trained professionals set out on a mission. What was their assignment? To provide much needed dental care to every military veteran who stepped forward that day.
The veterans began to arrive well before dawn. The first two vets in line arrived at 0400 hours. By the time reigistration began at 0645 there were 50 vets lined up. By the end of the day 102 veterans were served by the dental professionals who volunteered for this mission.
Who were the volunteers?
Ground Zero for the mission was A Soft Touch in Family Dental Care at 450 Errol Parkway. This is the dental office of Dr. John Gammichia, the organizer of the event. He normally is called "Dr. John," by his patients, but for this mission we will give him a temporary battlefield promotion to General.
General John told us the mission would not have been a success without help from several dentists, including:
The team included two oral surgeons from Winter Park; Don Tillery and Chris Williams.
Several students from UCF also volunteered.
"We stuck to just cleanings, fillings and extractions, " said General John. "I will be doing some dentures and partial repairs this week because that is not something we could do on Friday."
General John uses the AMK Laboratory in Altamonte Springs who also donated their services.
Why was this mission necessary?
"Decay and gum disease are progressive," said General John. "We fixed broken front teeth and if you waited a year longer they would have needed to come out. As far as gum disease goes, the longer you wait the worse it gets. We did our best to arrest the situation."
What other factors contributed to the success of the mission?
"My sister who owns a hair salon came with one of her employees and they both cut hair all day. This was a real treat for some of the patients. Also my brother-in-law used to be a DJ and has all the equipment. He set up about 0930 and played requests and patriotic songs all day."
Was this a one-time thing?
"The day was overwhelmingly positive. We are so excited to serve those who have served for us. The volunteers and my staff are all on board to do this again. So yes, we are planning another Operation Bright Smiles next year."
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