On July 1, VA launched VETSmile: Connecting Veterans with Dentists in their Community in partnership with leading dental care providers in New York City and New Jersey, the initial sites of a pilot launch.

VETSmile is a Veteran-centered effort that broadens dental care access for VA-enrolled Veterans through collaborations with compassionate dental care sites that provide high quality services for our nation’s heroes.

The program is designed to provide a first touchpoint for Veterans that do not have a regular dentist and for those who may need help paying for dental care.

VETSmile is a Center for Care and Payment Innovation (CCPI)-led pilot program. It seeks to advance continuous and comprehensive oral and dental health care services for VA-enrolled Veterans who are ineligible to receive VA dental care services.

The VETSmile program will also integrate oral health educational component to encourage continued oral hygiene practices into Veterans’ daily lives.

Connecting Veterans with dentists in their communities

Good oral health is a window to an individual’s overall health. Furthermore, there are possible connections between gum problems and health issues, including heart disease, bacterial pneumonia and stroke, as evidenced by clinical research.

The need to ramp up Veterans’ access to dental care still exists. Only about 8% of the Veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system qualify for VA dental benefits.

VETSmile to serve 3,900 Veterans in the initial pilot sites in the first year

For the initial pilot sites, VETSmile expects to serve an estimated 3,900 Veterans through 9,000 Veteran patient visits in the first year of implementation.

These numbers will grow as additional dental care providers from different regions of the country are added to the pilot program. That could happen as early as late Fall 2021.

“We are very excited and incredibly fortunate to collaborate with dental care providers who are passionate about comprehensive dental services and quality care for Veterans,” said Dr. Roshni Ghosh, the CCPI acting executive director.

VETSmile services offered to eligible Veterans may include acute emergency dental care, preventive oral care, treatment of oral disease, dental restoration, endodontics and periodontics. The services provided depend on the community provider.

Holistic dental care critical to achieving health equity

The pilot program aligns with the VA mission to honor and serve Veterans. The initial partner sites are in New York City at New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry and in New Jersey at Zufall Health Center and Rutgers School of Dental Medicine.

Both have committed to providing free or discounted services to Veterans enrolled in VETSmile at their state-of-the art dental care facilities.

VETSmile is known as VETSmile/VOCARE at NYU College of Dentistry. VOCARE stands for Veterans Oral Care Access Resource.

VETSmile aims to improve Veterans’ overall health and reduce the demand for emergency dental care in hospitals.

“Increasing access to comprehensive, holistic dental care is critical for achieving health equity. This is especially true for populations that face barriers to receiving care,” said Dr. Charles N. Bertolami, the Herman Robert Fox dean of NYU College of Dentistry.

Each pilot site offers leading-edge technology and services that are designed with diverse Veteran needs in mind. NYU College of Dentistry, Zufall Health Center and Rutgers School of Dental Medicine have top-notch facilities that are accessible by public transportation.

Additionally, the facilities have dedicated staff and the resources to readily accommodate patients with disabilities or patients that have a history of trauma.

Partners’ commitment will improve access to dental care

“We are very excited to partner with VA to expand Veterans’ access to quality dental services,” said Eva Turbiner, president and CEO of the Zufall Health Center. “For many years, Zufall has made special efforts to engage and serve the many Veterans in our community who need affordable oral health care.”

Strategic partnerships with the American Dental Association (ADA), the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) and the VA Office of Dentistry will support the development and success of this pilot.

“The American Dental Association is proud to collaborate with the VETSmile partnership to improve Veterans’ access to quality and affordable dental care,” said ADA President Dr. Daniel J. Klemmedson.

Veterans will be notified and referred into the program

For Zufall Health Center, eligible Veterans will be notified through letters, emails and text message. For NYU College of Dentistry program enrollment, eligible Veterans will be referred by their primary care physicians at VA New York Harbor Health System.

“VA New York Harbor’s mission is to provide world-class care to our nation’s heroes,” said Martina Parauda, director of the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System. “We are proud to partner with the New York University College of Dentistry. Together, we expand that mandate by ensuring all Veterans have access to quality dental care.”

For more information, visit the VETSmile webpage: https://www.innovation.va.gov/about/vetsmile.

Program to rapidly expand across the country

CCPI will continue to collaborate with local partners to ensure eligible Veterans have access to seamless dental care. The initial launch is in New York City and New Jersey. CCPI will rapidly accelerate efforts to expand the VETSmile pilot program across the country.

Over VETSmile’s initial five-year duration, CCPI will continually improve the pilot program.

We will build momentum by fostering partnerships with additional dental care providers in other areas across the nation to enhance Veterans’ access to quality and affordable dental care.

The VETSmile program will carry on for the next five years. After that, administrators will assess it for scaling or an extension.

About the Center for Care and Payment Innovation

CCPI operates under VA’s Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning. The MISSION Act of 2018 established CCPI to carry out innovative approaches to testing payment and service delivery models. This reduces expenditures while preserving or enhancing the quality of care furnished by VA.

By Mariam Malik is a communications specialist with the Center for Care and Payment Innovation

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Published on Aug. 5, 2021

Estimated reading time is 4.9 min.

Views to date: 1,431


  1. crazy gunsmith August 11, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    had all of my teeth removed by the V A because of mouth cancer. since i dont qualify for V A dental the V A didnt do the needed surgery on my mouth for me to be able to wear dentures.
    now that the V A through their great care did a wonderful job curing my cancer, i have tried to get the needed surgery for me to wear dentures through private dental practise, but it is no longer possible because of the amount of radiation i received in my cancer treatment.
    the dentist i went to said i could get a couple of implants to help stabilise the dentures but the cost is prohibitive.
    because the V A wouldnt do the needed oral surgery while removing my teeth while it was still possible pre radiation, i am now going on year 4 of no teeth and little hope of ever getting teeth again.
    it appears to be too late for me but the V A should provide help for vets that have to have their teeth removed for medical reasons even if they dont qualify for dental care.
    i had multiple bridges before my teeth were all pulled so its not like i neglected my dental health over the years and while some of the the prior dental work needed to be repaired it was functional if not pretty.
    i hope other vets that need the same cancer treatment i required will have their dental needs taken care of in the future while still getting the outstanding cancer treatment i received!
    i would love to eat a steak again someday, i can always dream!

  2. Robert Frost August 8, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    Dental care at the VA (AS well as all other medical & health care plans) should include FULL DENTAL COVERAGE! It is ridiculous in this modern age that certain types of medical care, like dental, eye, and hearing treatments are separated from medical as their own “singular” aspect and are NOT COVERED by medical insurance, NOT EVEN FROM THE VA (Unless your diabetic or rated 100%), nor through MEDICARE, or MEDICAID coverage. There are multiple medical conditions that are greatly exasperated by poor or the lack of dental care & dental coverage.

    Until my rated conditions made me eligible at the VA for dental care, the only thing that the VA was willing to do was to YANK AND REMOVE the tooth or teeth in question if a Veteran was not rated at 100% or Diabetic.
    The VA also Doesn’t cover TMJ nor any conditions that could possibly relate to or be associated to in conjunction with injuries to the jaw or teeth like those injuries caused by head trauma, hearing loss, stress, depression, or etc because such injuries are considered and allocated under VA coverage policies strictly as DENTAL CARE and therefore are NOT COVERED under VA treatments unless the veteran is rated at 100% disabled or is diagnosed by the VA as diabetic.

    This gives many veterans like myself, with little money and few other option, little to no choice but to suffer in pain, pay for Dental Care entirely out of pocket, or have one or more teeth extracted and removed. Either that, or the Veteran can make their conditions worse by purposely gaining weight in the “hopes” to become diabetic so that the Veteran can finally get VA Dental Coverage.

    Dentist always say that “It’s best to preserve your natural teeth, if possible”.
    Yet, the VA’s Dental care policy for those Veterans deemed “not eligible”, which IS MOST VETERANS, is still primarily extraction of the problem related tooth or teeth.
    My own personal experience with the VA resulted in 5 of my back teeth being removed by the VA during the many, many years before my rating and conditions “deemed” and made me “eligible” for VA Dental Care.
    However, now that my rating and conditions make me “eligible” for VA Dental care, the VA is putting some of those teeth back in the form of Dental implants where the VA had previously removed my teeth from the long time period when I was “ineligible” for VA Dental Care and the VA refused to provide any dental care service above or beyond extracting the teeth causing the issues.
    Wouldn’t it make more sense to give Veteran, and the general public, full dental coverage & treatment under general medical care services than to separate dental coverage into a completely separate entity?
    Strangely, dental implants are also still considered primarily as “cosmetic” procedures in today’s age and by all insurance providers, meaning that such treatments are not covered. Getting Dental implants was also much less painful, less stressful, and required far fewer visits to the dentist and oral surgeons than the root canals or crowns I’ve received in the before during and after my military service.
    Initially dental care was separated from other medical care because dental care was, at that time, considered entirely cosmetic treatments and “deemed” relatively unnecessary to one’s overall care.
    Now, even though we know better and understand that one’s dental care is integral to everyone’s overall medical well-being, Dental care, its treatments, and insurances as still strangely kept separated as their own separate entity with most treatments still being very expensive while still being considered as cosmetic.
    As in most cases it is still all about money and profits instead of the general well-being and medical necessity of a person’s overall care.

    The VA NEEDS to take the lead in this country by INCORPORATING its VA Dental care and treatments into the VA’s general medical coverage for ALL VETERANS instead of separating and prioritizing VA Dental care for a selected few, so every veteran will get ALL the medical care that they may need.

  3. Kindra Wright August 7, 2021 at 6:58 pm

    As an Air Force Veteran, that served 23 years this would be awesome if it were available in the Flint, MI area. Due to chemo, I lost a lot of my tears. I can’t afford to pay the prices they charge around here for implants. I sure hope this becomes available soon in Michigan.

    • Kindra Wright August 7, 2021 at 6:59 pm

      That’s “Teeth” not tears…

  4. Cynthia Williams August 7, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    40% service connected can’t afford to have missing teeth replaced…have dental insurance..but cost is still out of reach…so now i am limited to what food to eat…hope this program expands…South Dakota needs it

  5. Louis Parker Jr August 7, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    Lord thank you Jesus for this program.

  6. Arnold Cabral August 7, 2021 at 1:17 pm

    Right on John the Veteran Medical Centers Dentistry should have a referral to a Dentist knows how to put in G4implants and especially if they are 100 percent service connected.

  7. RS August 7, 2021 at 10:22 am

    Even getting dental care through the VA is an insanely broken system. I’m glad they’re doing this but they should also try to improve the 6 month long wait times and the need for veterans to drive hours and hours to a “main VA” to be evaluated first before being allowed to use community care. None of it makes sense and the burden falls on…drum roll…the veteran

  8. William Schriver August 7, 2021 at 6:44 am

    I never understood why the VA won’t do dental but if you want to become transgender they’ll help you out with with that I’m in Georgia and need extensive work on bottom teeth Studio actually broke off at the gum line

  9. John Joseph Mulkeen August 6, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    How do I participate in this program…

  10. DAVID L SHUTTS August 6, 2021 at 6:23 pm

    Would be blessing, when comming to long beach CA?

  11. James Mccormick August 6, 2021 at 5:18 pm

    Please get this program going in Nevada,I will drive to Reno to sign up…….think I have periodontal disease and I do not qualify for dental thru VA and I live only on social security and I’m scared of health issues from my dental problems

  12. George Crawley August 6, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    Hi I need a full dental workout both top and bottom plus implants I only get 30% disability so I don’t qualify for help with the VA and then my Medicaid doesn’t cover anything here in Michigan either so basically that kind of like screws us people in Michigan I’m hoping it does

    • Lee Staples Jr US Sir Force August 6, 2021 at 8:14 pm

      I’m VET and live in Tulsa Oklahoma, and we need dental care here bad, I can’t afford it and my dental care is in bad shape, and can’t get help because I’m only 20% disabled vet, I would appreciate it I could get some help, I gave 8 years to my Country and need help

  13. John August 6, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    VA dental implants, Dental + Community Care

    I need full mouth dental implants, from Clear Choice civilian dental practice ($50,000.00) because I was denied dental care for 7 years(2003-2010) and lost many teeth from non care . .
    I have been previously denied by the McClellan VA dental implants Committe
    Please escalate my request to VA admin & legal ! !
    @ 75, and my good health I can expect to live another 15-20 years. . If I have the ability to eat/chew and properly digest
    All foods !

  14. Joseph Albert Warner Jr. August 6, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    This sounds like a great program for veterans who are not eligible for the regular dental program at the VA. I was in the infantry and as a result have hearing loss but was told I am not eligible for any compensation because I was not enlisted during war time even though I was on call and ready to fight for my country if needed.
    Living on social security leaves very little for dental care so I hope that we can get this pilot program started in Citrus County Fl. soon because we have a high population of vets and there are more like me who need dental care in our county.

    [Editor: Compensation eligibility has no bearing on peace vs. war time service. If you sustained or aggravated an injury or medical condition while active duty, on or off post, on duty or off, in civvies or cammies, you are eligible to submit a disability compensation claim.]

    • Antonita Brown August 6, 2021 at 8:33 pm

      If you can prove your hearing loss was caused by military service you can be compensated. Check your medical records…

  15. Michael H Kooker August 6, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    As an active duty and Reserve vet without dental insurance this program would be a blessing.

Comments are closed.

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