USC University of Southern California

Mobile Dental Clinic Provides Free Dental Care to Veterans in Need

Alyson Straub Rudolph Valencia Stand Down 2012
Alyson Straub DDS ’13 treats Air Force veteran Rudolph Valencia in the USC Mobile Dental Clinic.

The Ostrow School of Dentistry Mobile Dental Clinic provided military veterans with much-needed dental care during the 2012 Compton Stand Down September 22-23.

2012 was the Mobile Clinic’s second year at the Stand Down event, which is orchestrated by U.S. Vets, Inc. and partners with volunteers to provide veterans with everything from health care, housing assistance, and legal aid to employment resources, hygiene supplies, and new clothing. Over two days, students from the Ostrow School of Dentistry’s dental hygiene, dental surgery, and advanced endodontics programs provided screenings, oral health education, x-rays, restorative treatment, root canal treatment, and clinic referrals to 140 veterans.

Air Force veteran, plumber, and grandfather Rudolph Valencia said he was incredibly fortunate to learn about the Stand Down. Upon learning his dental problems wouldn’t be covered by the Veterans Administration, he resigned himself to having a painful tooth extracted; however, he learned about the Stand Down just two days before the event when he randomly met a U.S. Vets employee who told him he could receive free dental care. Valencia received a root canal and crown from the Mobile Clinic, thereby saving the tooth.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “I was going to have this tooth pulled, but then I was able to come see these beautiful people from USC. I really appreciate what they’re doing for the vets. I feel so blessed!”

Mary Jack, an Army veteran, had not had access to dental care since she injured her back and became unable to work. She came to the Mobile Clinic with a painful tooth that had been troubling her for years and needed to be extracted.

“You learn to deal with the pain,” she said of her long search for assistance. “It’s almost like the pain became my friend.”

Jack, who hopes to eventually make her way back into the working world via volunteering, said she was thoroughly impressed and grateful for the service of Ostrow students.

“They are so polite and so giving of their time. They make you feel comfortable and give you that office atmosphere,” she said.

Santosh Sundaresan, Mobile Clinic director and Ostrow assistant professor of clinical dentistry, said that most of the veterans at the Stand Down hadn’t had access to dental care for years, and many had extensive, painful decay. The dental services provided immense benefit for not only the veterans but also for the students and residents who learned more about caring for them, he added.

‘The students were happy that they could be a part of this event,” Sundaresan said. “Many of our students are going into the military after graduation, and they felt honored to be a part of this operation. We all feel privileged to give back at least a little to our veterans who have given so much for us.”