Issaquah dentist gives back to vets

November 9, 2010

By Emma McGraw

You’d think that when American veterans return from active duty, dental care would be an automatic benefit. However, you’d be wrong.

Only veterans deemed “completely service-disabled” are covered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and that is for only certain types of dental work, according to Issaquah dentist Theresa Cheng. That means most veterans don’t get seen by dentists — and it goes for their caretakers and family as well.Cheng and staff are doing something to help rectify the situation. On Nov. 20, they will offer free dental care to combat-injured veterans and their family caregivers.

“We are trying to show gratitude to these veterans who have sacrificed their lives,” Cheng said. “It’s our little part to give back.”

Cheng said she was first inspired to help when she read a newspaper story about local combat-injured vet Rory Dunn and his mother Cynthia Lefever. The initial idea was to do something to help the mothers and spouses of injured vets, like Dunn’s mother, but it soon grew to encompass the vets themselves, Cheng said.

“Veterans are covered, but moms aren’t,” she said. “But most vets don’t actually have coverage, and so we see more of them than the caregivers.”

Cheng and her staff are in their third year of doing Free Dental Care Day for Disabled Veterans and their Family Caregivers, and are excited to be booking appointments for the date. Cheng is also a periodontist, so veterans can be provided with a periodontal exam and removal of infected teeth, as well as regular dental services. If more intensive or restorative care is needed, Cheng has compiled a list of 21 other dentists and oral surgeons interested in helping veterans.

Veteran Nathan Murphy and his wife Christine have gotten help from Free Dental Care Day. Last year, both received an exam and cleaning while there, and Christine was even referred to another dentist when it was discovered her braces had snapped.

“I think it’s outstanding,” Nathan Murphy said. “A lot of us come back and don’t have the option of dental. With this economy, it’s hard to get care you need. My wife went quite a while without any.”

Voni Brachvogel, mother of a veteran, said she is also glad to have found out about the availability of such services. After learning about it through her volunteer work helping families with loved ones in Iraq, she went last year for a checkup and cleaning.

“It was the best general care I’ve ever had in my life,” Brachvogel said. “I’ve never had anyone as professional, kind and thorough as them. The whole staff was great.”

This year’s Free Dental Care Day is taking it up a notch, including an on-site masseuse to provide massages, as well as gift bags filled with donated items from local businesses. Such goodies include Advil and toothbrushes from Costco, pastries from Panera Bread, memberships to Gold’s Gym and gift cards to Barnes & Noble. PCC Natural Markets, Boehms Candies and Tully’s Coffee have also helped.

“It’s very evident that people in this community want to give back to vets, but don’t really have an avenue to do it,” Cheng said. “It’s very touching.”

What to know

Schedule an appointment or ask questions by calling 392-8992, or go to here.

Emma McGraw is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at

Bookmark and Share
Other Stories of Interest: , , , , , , ,


Got something to say?

Before you comment, please note:

  • These comments are moderated.
  • Comments should be relevant to the topic at hand and contribute to its discussion.
  • Personal attacks and/or excessive profanity will not be tolerated and such comments will not be approved.
  • This is not your personal chat room or forum, so please stay on topic.