In the heat of the Viet Nam War, Albert Grazevich knew how to handle almost any situation, but after losing several teeth many years later, he retreats when running into old friends.

“If I see my wife stop to talk to someone, I’m embarrassed and usually go the other way,” admitted the Navy veteran whose teeth needed thousands of dollars of restoration work.

But after being fitted for free dentures at the 3rd Annual “Smiles for Our Heroes,” Albert is looking forward to smiling again and has a much healthier outlook.

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The Hardyston resident traveled to Zufall Health’s Dover Dental Center last weekend where veterans from all over New Jersey participated in a Veteran’s Day observance that provides free dental care to honor them for their military service. 

A partnership between Delta Dental of New Jersey, Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation, Zufall Health, and the New Jersey Dental Association, the two-day event accommodated 220 service appointments. Low-income veterans and their families received free cleanings and x-rays, extractions, fillings, and even dentures. Veterans generally are not eligible for dental care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, unless they have a service-related disability. Often, those who cannot afford dental care suffer from poor oral health, which can contribute to low self-esteem and serious health conditions.

More than 48 dental professionals and 75 non-clinical volunteers from as far as Burlington County donated their services for all or part of the weekend. Many were veterans themselves or were related to vets, and several were volunteering for the second or third time. 

“I want to offer a sincere thank you to everyone who made “Smiles For Our Heroes” happen – to Zufall, the dentists, the hygienists, the dental assistants, the legion of volunteers, the supportive legislative leaders, and most of all, to our veterans,” said Dennis Wilson, President and Chief Executive officer of Delta Dental of New Jersey, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  He also recognized Dr. Gene Napoliello, Chairman of the Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation, for his passion and drive in creating and nurturing the event which since 2017 has served more than 625 veterans.

Although this is only a two-day event, Eva Turbiner, Zufall Health President and Chief Executive Officer, assured veterans that the health center is committed to providing them the care that they need.

“Our permanent dental offices in five counties and our dental van are here for you all year long,” she said. “We’ll continue in the coming months to finish the work already started, and we will be your dental home for all your future needs.”

On hand to celebrate opening day was U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) who thanked the veterans and pledged to continue working to pass bipartisan legislation to deal with problems facing the veteran population. Also present was newly appointed N.J. State Senator Anthony M. Bucco, who presented Zufall, Delta Dental, and the New Jersey Dental Association with a congratulatory proclamation from the State Legislature; Willy Tolba, Veteran and Military Caseworker for U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11); and Dover Mayor James Dodd.

In addition to dental care, attendees were treated to free health screenings, refreshments, entertainment by the Denville String Band, and giveaways, all offered in a huge hospitality tent.

Echoing the sentiments of many satisfied veterans, Roberto Lopez, a 29-year Army National Guard veteran from Passaic, was grateful and happy. “The dental service here today is better than any other practice I’ve encountered,” he said, “and I’d recommend it to veterans and civilians alike.”

Additional funding for the event was provided by sponsors Benco Dental and LabCorp and a host of other financial and in-kind corporate and private donors.

Captions:

Photo 1:  Pictured left to right: Dover Mayor James Dodd; Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation Chairman Dr. Gene Napoliello; Delta Dental of New Jersey President & CEO Dennis Wilson; Zufall Health CEO Eva Turbiner; Congressman Tom Malinowski; Senator Anthony Bucco; and Chairman of Zufall’s Board of Directors Bill Shuler at the Patriotic Program on November 2, 2019 at the 3rd Annual Smiles for Our Heroes.

Photo 2:  Senator Anthony Bucco presented Eva Turbiner, CEO of Zufall Health, with a State Proclamation during the Patriotic Program honoring Zufall Health, Delta Dental of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Dental Association for their commitment to helping in-need veterans obtain dental care.

About Delta Dental
Delta Dental of New Jersey, Inc. is New Jersey’s leading dental benefits company, providing or administering coverage to more than 1.7 million people through contracts with groups in New Jersey and Connecticut. In Connecticut, Delta Dental of Connecticut, Inc. is a licensed insurer that writes dental coverage on an insured basis, and Delta Dental of New Jersey administers self-funded dental benefit programs. For more information, visit www.deltadentalnj.com.

About Zufall Health

Zufall Health is a not-for-profit, state-licensed community health center that has been providing high-quality, affordable medical and dental treatment to the working poor, uninsured, and underserved for over 29 years. More than 40,000 patients are served at its headquarters site in Dover as well as medical and/or dental offices in Morristown, Hackettstown, Flemington, Somerville, West Orange, Newton, and on its Highlands Health Van and Zufall Health Delta Dental Mobile. For more information, visit zufallhealth.org.