Vietnam veteran battling gum disease gets new set of teeth

Raymond Etheridge has been battling gum disease and had been unable to see a dentist due to lack of insurance. A Central Ohio dentist designed dentures for Etheridge free of charge. (WSYX/WTE)

Raymond Etheridge won several medals for his bravery during the Vietnam War.

But he never expected to do battle against gum disease.

"I've been in pain," said Etheridge. "Every day I'm in pain. Chewing- even pressing against the gum with something hard- just hurts."

Etheridge told us doctors at the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus kept pushing back his appointments without any explanation.

He also said he didn't have dental insurance.

We reached out to Doctor Richard Cunningham, with the Worthington Dental Group.

Cunningham has a soft spot in his heart for veterans.

His office sponsored free dental care for veterans last November.

"The sense of urgency in my mind is pain," Cunningham said after meeting Etheridge.

"When a patient is in pain, you've got to do something."

Cunningham said Etheridge would need almost all of his teeth removed, and then replaced by dentures which Cunningham would design free of charge.

Etheridge says Cunningham jump-started his care right away, consulting with his doctors at the VA hospital.

He was ready for surgery by early February.

A week later, we found a new man, with more energy and less pain.

"I was kind of afraid to open my mouth, but now I have no sad feelings," said Etheridge.

"I feel good about it. I appreciate everything channel 6 On Your Side has done.

So I thank you very much!"

He says he now plans to use his smile makeover to help others as well.

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