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Jack Gouverneur Reflects on a Lifetime of Dental Care

Jack Gouverneur stands looking into the camera. He is 86 years old, has many wrinkles and is balding. He wears a blue and black striped polo. There is an American flag flying over his left shoulder.
Rebecca Smith

Jack Gouverneur is an 86-year-old Korean War veteran who lives in Carthage, Missouri. Last month, over the course of a weekend, he waited in line for hours to get free dental care at the sixth annual MOMOM or Missouri Mission of Mercy.

MOMOM is a once a year, two-day dental clinic providing free care for anyone who’s willing to wait in line. It’s in a different place every year, and this year the event was held in Joplin, Missouri.


Jack does have dental insurance, but said MOMOM happened at the "right time," and allowed him to get three teeth extracted without having to pay his insurance co-pays. He reflected on the dental care he has received throughout his 86 years.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Jack Gouverneur:  When I came back from service, all the pretty girls were married, and I found one, but it took me quite awhile.

See, now that I'm 86 years old, I have an advantage that I didn't have when I was 25 looking for ladies - I'm out numbered three or four to one. So I can be darn picky now. When before I couldn't. 

Rebecca Smith: Do you remember growing up - did you guys go to the dentist? Were people doing the same kind of dental care when you were growing up that they do now? 

Jack: I went, let's see, when I grew up I went to the dentist. I had a, I can't remember what it's called, but it's a puss pocket at the top of your tooth. They had to drill through the tooth - all the way through it - and they didn't have any anesthetic medicine that with adequate to kill the pain, and it was very painful on those two teeth that I had when I was maybe nine or ten years old. I don't remember. But that's the only time I went to the dentist in my childhood

Rebecca: If nothing else, the teeth today didn't hurt nearly as much as that, I bet.

Jack: Oh no. That was 200 percent less painful.

But there wasn't such a thing as dental insurance that I was aware of. Of course I was just a child, but we didn't have any insurance at the time - Medicare or anything else had been invented.

Rebecca: Do you remember when you first got dental insurance? 

Jack: Probably in my 50s or something. When I was 50 years old or older. Cause I don't remember it much previously to that, and I didn't have much dental work fortunately.

So the VA only covers the dentist work that they did on me when I was in service, which they replaced that two front teeth that was worked on when I was nine years old or ten. They replaced those when I was in service - pulled them and replaced them because I guess the abscess came back.

I was overseas. They sent me into the dentist to have a check up, and they decided to pull my two front teeth. And after it was - when it was time to to repair it, they sent me back and the Lieutenant decided that he was going to pull two more teeth so it would be easier for him to put a replacement in. 

Luckily Colonel Thornberry was sitting in the next chair and said, "Oh, just leave the young man for a few minutes, and I'll see if I can take care of it without doing that." And he was able to without any problem whatsoever. 

And it's still in my mouth at this current date. I'm 86 years old now and I was 21 then.

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
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