By Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers
Days after the Fourth of July celebrated the country’s independence, one man and his staff were working to give back to the folks responsible for defending that freedom. Shamblott Family Dentistry in Hopkins honored the service of military veterans by offering free dental care July 6 as part of the second annual event, Operation Open Wide.
From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the office, run by Dr. Scott Shamblott, provided much-needed treatment to more than a dozen former service men and women who would otherwise be unable to afford it.
“The veterans’ stories are impactful, heart wrenching, and now, at least one of their stories has a happy ending,” said Bink Semmer, a marketing consultant for Shamblott Family Dentistry.
Shamblott said the project started when a veteran and long-term patient informed him that military benefits provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs don’t include dental care.
“There are a lot of vets struggling with dental issues,” Shamblott said.
By reaching out to local Yellow Ribbon organizations, Shamblott was able to get the names of 15 veterans from throughout the metro area who were likely candidates to receive free dental evaluations and follow-up treatment.
Shamblott is no stranger to giving back to the community; every February, his office offers a “Dentistry From the Heart” event in which patients in need of cleanings, fillings or extractions can receive the services at no cost.
“Dentistry has been really good to me, and it’s important to be able to give back,” Shamblott said.
For the veterans, however, Shamblott offered not just fillings or extractions, but any and all services necessary for their complete dental health, including full or partial dentures, root canals, crowns and more.
In 2015, Shamblott’s office provided an estimated $35,000 worth of free dental services to these patients.
This year, 14 vets were selected for a free evaluation and care through Operation Open Wide.
One of the patients in Shamblott’s office was Carl Manthei, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam in the early 1970s.
After his service, Manthei said he struggled with mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As a result, Manthei said he experienced a period of homelessness, but in recent years has begun to get back on his feet, finding stable housing and turning his life around. He now volunteers at the Minneapolis office of Veterans Affairs.
Manthei was missing teeth as a result of his difficult circumstances, which prevented him from being able to chew comfortably but also hurt his self confidence, Semmer said.
“He wanted to be able to give everyone a full smile and know they would smile back,” Semmer said.
Manthei said he was incredibly grateful when Shamblott provided him with a dental evaluation and the dentures he needed.
“It’s amazing. This happened through the grace of God. I’m beyond grateful,” Mathei said. “I’m so happy I could cry … and it’s all thanks to this gentleman and his wonderful staff.”
Another veteran, Gary Kemper, was treated for deteriorating teeth and an infection in his gums. Kemper was in severe pain — his teeth would crack and fall out when he tried to eat — until Shamblott and his staff were able to provide treatment and relief, Semmer said.
Approximately $40,000 in services was provided to the veterans this year, but Shamblott said being able to help those who have served their country by restoring their health and dignity is priceless.
“It’s an amazing group of people, the best people you could ask to be around,” he said. “It’s just wonderful to be able to help them.”
Shamblott said he plans to continue Operation Open Wide for the rest of his career, and hopes to spread the word and get other dentists involved as well.
“I’d love to have people who are interested contact me so we can help more people and, if not fix, then at least make a serious difference in dental issues for veterans,” he said.
Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]