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'Network of angels' helps New York veteran get his smile back

November 05, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

When disabled Navy veteran Ken Carr wrote an email to the ADA about six months ago asking for help in finding dental care, the Holtsville, New York, man said he was in a "desperate place."

"It was out of pure desperation," he said. "I didn't know what I was going to do."

Photo of Dr. Meitner
Dr. Meitner
Photo of Mr. Carr
Mr. Carr
Mr. Carr endured a traumatic brain injury in 1990 following a Jeep accident while he was serving in the Navy and was missing three teeth as a result, including a front one that had recently dislodged. He is currently unemployed and has no dental insurance, he said, largely as a result of the effects of the brain injury.

"It has affected my life in ways I'm still realizing," he said.

Since he sent that email, Mr. Carr said he has been in contact "with a network of angels," including ADA member dentists who have helped him get his smile back, a dental laboratory offering reduced fees and an implant company that donates their products to dentists willing to provide care.

"It was just mind-blowing. The generosity came from everywhere," he said.

First, the ADA helped him find a local dentist who put him in touch with Drs. Paul and Megan Leary of Smithtown, New York, who removed what remained of one of his broken teeth and provided him with a flipper, Mr. Carr said.

"That was huge," he said.

In search of a permanent solution, Mr. Carr said he was browsing the internet and came across Integrated Dental Systems' Smiles for Vets program, in which the company provides dentists with supplies to go toward dental care for veterans.

Mr. Carr qualified, and Dr. Sean Meitner, a dentist with offices located southwest of Rochester, New York, agreed to complete the procedures.

Dr. Meitner, who served in the Naval Dental Corps after graduating from Marquette University School of Dentistry, said he regularly assists disabled veterans who need dental care through the Veterans Health Administration and also the Smiles for Vets program. Dr. Meitner's father, Lt. Harvey E. Meitner, was also a service member; he was killed in the Philippines during World War II, when Dr. Meitner was three-years-old.

"It is my way of thanking them for their service to our country," said Dr. Meitner, who has practiced in upstate New York since the late 1970s. "That is small compared to some of those who have lost their lives or limbs for our country."

Dr. Meitner said he works with Rochester Technical Group, a dental laboratory, for the restorative portion of the treatment. The lab offers their services at a reduced rate for these patients.

Dr. Meitner's dental practice is about a seven-hour drive for Mr. Carr, but a local hotel gave him a discount so he didn't have to make the drive for several days' worth of care.

In three months, Mr. Carr said he would return again to Dr. Meitner's office to get the caps put on. "I feel great," said Mr. Carr. "I just want to see these dentists get recognized and hopefully inspire others to reach out to the veterans community and help those in need."