UPDATE: Dozens of local veterans received free dental care Thursday from a bus traveling across the country. Hundreds more wanted to be part of the event but space was limited.
The Aspen Dental Mouth Mobile is on it's 4th annual cross-country tour and stopped first time in Chattanooga.
Inside the Mouth Mobile it looks just like a dentist's office. There's a waiting room for patients, an X-ray machine and individual rooms for veteran's to get treatment.
"Unfortunately everyone that we see is in pain, it's not cosmetic or fun work that we're doing it's mostly extractions, single fillings," said Dr. Ashley Boling of Aspen Dental Chattanooga.
The mobile dentist's office was stopped at Ross' Landing for only a few hours but it was enough to make a difference.
"I am so happy to be one of the lucky ones to get one of these appointments that filled up so quickly," said Veteran Jo Schendel, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Veterans from all different walks of life lined up to get free care they've been put off for so long.
"I had a filling done that I really, really needed so half of my mouth is numb," Schendel said, "The doctor said I got there just in time so I didn't need a root canal!"
The Aspen Dental Mouth Mobile treated about 50 people. But organizers said more than 300 other local veterans wanted to be part of the event.
Vietnam Veteran Eugene Nastvogel was put on the waiting list after he called and was told there was no more space available.
"I've got two teeth that have to come out, I mean they're really bad," Nastvogel said.
During his time overseas Nastvogel said his hearing and vision was impaired. He was shot three times, putting him in a wheelchair.
His life has been difficult.
"It's been hard but I'm getting the help I need though for certain things, I'm getting real good help," Nastvogel said.
After a few hours of waiting, Nastvogel was able to get inside and get treatment. He's hoping to have a pain-free mouth for the first time, in a long time.
The next stop for the Mouth Mobile will be Memphis next week.
There is another chance for Chattanooga area veterans to receive free dental care from Aspen Dental. There's going to be another day of service on June 24th and you will need an appointment for that as well.
ORIGINAL STORY: Aspen Dental's MouthMobile will be stopping in Chattanooga to provide free dental care to veterans.
The mobile dental office will be staffed by local Aspen Dental dentists and local volunteers.
"It makes you more appreciative of what you have here," said Leroy McDermott, talking about his time served in the Vietnam War.
McDermott joined the U.S. Army when he was 19 years old.
"And I was in Korea for 13 months, a military policeman was my occupation or title," he said.
McDermott lives in Chattanooga and when he heard about the chance for free dental care he was one of the first to call and make an appointment.
Right now McDermott is paying out of pocket anytime he visits a dentist.
"Just to get a cleaning it's about $120 so that's $120 saved right there," he said.
Retired Navy Captain Mickey McCamish said the need for veterans to received dental care is overwhelming. The Veterans Administration only covers dental care for veterans who are 100% disabled or have a direct injury to their mouth.
He said the goal is to treat at least 40 veterans but there will be a waiting list make sure as many as possible can get treated.
"And there will be three dental chairs, three dentists will be there, hygienist, anything you can do in the dental office you can do right there," McCamish said. "This is just another way to say thanks to the veteran because they've made the ultimate sacrifice."
The clinic will be held Thursday, March 16 at 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside AT&T Field at Riverfront Parkway and Power Alley intersection at 100 Riverfront Parkway.
Free care will be provided in partnership with the Southeast Tennessee Veteran's Coalition. Appointments are required, contact Bill Chapman at 423-634-1771.
This visit is the 7th of the Aspen Dental MouthMobile's 35-stop tour of the country to support veterans.