A closer look at VA dental health care
This article describes VA dental care benefits and the state-of-the-art Dental Clinic at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s North Charleston Annex.
All veterans receive coverage for most care and services, but only some will qualify for added benefits like dental care. The full list of a veteran’s covered benefits depends on: the Vet’s priority group, the advice of the Vet’s primary care provider, and the medical standards for treating any health conditions the veteran has.
Read about VA Priority Groups 1 through 8 at https://www.va.gov/ health-care/eligibility/priority-groups/.
Veterans in the Lowcountry of S.C. and Georgia are fortunate to be living Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System’s (RHJVAHCS) area (catchment) of care. The ultra-modern RHJVAHCS Dental Clinic is located on the first floor, of the North Charleston Clinic, at 6450 Rivers Avenue, North Charleston, S.C. 29406.
The dental clinic has 19 dental chairs and a staff of the highest qualified doctors, three hygienists, seven dental assistants, and a lab technician. The Ralph Johnson VA Dental Clinic phone number is 843-818-5103.
The VA’s North Charleston Dental Clinic and is equipped state-of-the-art dental equipment including a three-dimensional CT Scanner, digitized x-ray, and other modernized dental equipment. The clinic can digitally scan for nightguards, dentures, crowns, implants, and bridgework, which makes for a better patient experience, shortens the timetable of care, and makes work more accurate and safer. The clinic is also on the cutting edge of digital printing and is working to become a national hub for dental printing services.
The Ralph Johnson Dental Clinic does dental cleanings and complex periodontal care, fluoride treatments, fillings, bite adjustments, crowns, bridgework, dentures, gum and bone surgery, and implant therapy. Recruitment for a root canal specialist (endodontists) is in-progress, which will make the clinic a full-service operation.
The one thing the clinic does not do, because it is not authorized by law, is orthodontics unless it is well-documented that it is needed by a service-connected disability.
The normal working hours of the RHJVAHCS Dental Clinic are from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Emergency dental care is provided nights, weekends, and holidays through the RHJVAHCS Medical Center Emergency Room or the private sector, after a referral from the Community Care Office.
The RHJVAHCS Medical Center is at 109 Bee Street, Charleston, S.C. 29401. The Ralph Johnson Medical Center phone number is 843-577-5011 and 888-878- 6884.
Most dental problems are not emergent in nature and those that are emergencies, will usually be handled by the RHJVAHCS Oral Surgeon. The Ralph Johnson VA Dental Clinic Oral Surgeon is also the Director of the Residency Program at the Medical University of S.C. (MUSC).
Even under COVID conditions, where the clinic only worked 11 chairs and forced to work at 75 percent capacity, the average wait time for routine visits at the VA dental clinic is 18.2 days. These wait times are better than the private sector average weight time.
RHJVAHCS Dental Clinic seldom has to has to cancel a dental appointment and they make every effort to see a patient the veteran whose appointment was canceled within a few days.
The Ralph Johnson VA Dental Clinic generally sees its patients every six months for their cleaning appointments. For significantly, periodontally compromised patients with co-morbidities, the clinic often sees them as needed and frequently every four months.
Currently there are no dental services offered at the other Ralph Johnson’s other six Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCS). However, it is possible that dental services may be added in the future to one or more of the CBOCs in Myrtle Beach, Beaufort and Savannah, Ga.
You can read more about VA dental care and the dental care benefits at https:// www.va.gov/health-care/ about-va-health-benefits/ dental-care/. Veterans may qualify for some or all of their dental care depending on several factors, including the vet’s military service history, current health, and living situation.
To be continued next week in the Aug. 12, edition of The Island News.
Larry Dandridge is a Vietnam War era wounded warrior, a combat and 100 percent disabled veteran, an ex-Enlisted Infantryman, an Ex-Warrant Officer Attack Helicopter Pilot and Test-pilot, and a retired Lt. Colonel. He is a past Veterans Service Officer, and a current volunteer Patient Adviser, CEO Advisory Council Member, and Patient and Family Advisory Committee Member at the RHJ VA Health Care System. He is also the Fisher House Charleston volunteer Good Will Ambassador and the VP for Veteran and Retiree Affairs for the Coastal Carolina Army Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Chapter. Larry is the author of the award-winning, non-fiction, and action-packed BLADES OF THUNDER (Book One) and contributing free-lance writer with The Island News. You can email him at LDandridge@earthlink.net.
These columns are not meant to replace carefully reading the Federal Veterans’ benefits information at www.va.gov and other locations or the State of S.C. Veterans benefit information at https://scdva.sc.gov. Anyone seeking advice on veterans’ benefits are advised to seek the advice and assistance of a Veterans Assistance Officer or another certified Veterans Advisor.
Larry Dandridge is not an employee of The Island News and his opinions are his alone. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of these articles, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed by the author or THE ISLAND NEWS for damages resulting from the use of information contained herein.