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County program gives free exams to low-income residents, veterans.

The Kitsap County Health District is trying to give Kitsap residents in need something they can smile about.

On Sept. 25, the Kitsap Oral Health Program, run by the Health District, completed its sixth and final free dental clinic day for low-income people using federal stimulus money granted by Kitsap Community Resources. Next, it will take its “dental van” to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds on Saturday to help deliver dental screenings to veterans.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program that ended last week at dental offices throughout the county was intended to help those looking for jobs, but who feel restricted by missing or damaged teeth.

At least 60 patients were selected among clients at Kitsap Community Resources, the Salvation Army and Catholic Community Services, among other social service agencies.

“It’s very difficult to impress your employer if you have a toothless smile or a broken or infected tooth,” said Carol Bruce, Oral Health Program coordinator for the district.

The Oral Health Program was given $25,000 to host the free clinics, the first of which was held in November. But about midway through this year, the program was not spending the money fast enough — it would only be available through the end of this month — so it gave $10,000 back to Kitsap Community Resources.

The program went under the $25,000 budget because most participating dentists declined to take a stipend for their work, Bruce said.

“The expertise and kindness shown to the community was incredible,” she said.

The $10,000 returned to Kitsap Community Resources was reallocated to the Peninsula Community Health Center, Olympic College’s Students In Need Group and and the Literacy Council of Kitsap.

The Oral Health Program will next bring its services to veterans at the Stand Down event Saturday, hosted by the Kitsap County Veterans Assistance Program and the Kitsap Area Veterans Alliance. There, the Oral Health Program will bring its dental van and offer exams and screenings and offer advice on finding treatment. This will be the sixth Stand Down in three years and the dental work is among the most popular services available at the event, said Leif Bentsen, human services planner for the Kitsap County Veterans Advisory Board.

Not all veterans are covered by federal Veterans Affairs health care benefits and even those who are don’t get a lot of help with dental care, Bentsen said.

“This is a first step to help our veterans who have no health insurance,” he said.

In addition to dental screenings, Stand Down will offer hair cuts, legal consulting, food, clothing, vaccines and hygiene items. It runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the Presidents Hall at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds, 1200 Fairgrounds Road in East Bremerton.

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