The Grapevine

Free Dental Care For US Veterans On Annual Day Of Service

With regards to medical coverage, dental care is often treated like a luxury, due to which access remains a challenge for many Americans, including veterans. In order to be eligible for Veterans Administration dental benefits, they must be 100 percent disabled, have a service-related mouth injury or must have been a prisoner of war.

But on the soon-approaching Day of Service, Aspen Dental will provide free dental care to all veterans across the country. Dentists and teams from approximately 500 offices are expected to take part in the annual event June 9.

To know more, Medical Daily spoke to Dr. Anita Imadomwanyi, director of clinical support and charitable giving for Aspen Dental Management, Inc.

“America is unique in our societal approach to oral health as separate from the rest of our body, stigmatizing dental care as a luxury available only to those with the means to afford it,” she said, explaining how dentistry is often seen as a discretionary benefit. “In fact, more than a third of the U.S. population struggles to access the most basic dental care.”

The 2018 day of service will be the fifth such event organized by Aspen Dental, working toward closing the gap in dental care access. Offices were also opened in areas designated as dental health professional shortage areas by the Department of Health and Human Services. In total, the practices cared for more than 1.7 million patients in 2017.

Dr. Imadomwanyi fondly recalled her experience while participating in the event last year, which included seeing numerous veterans regain their confidence, attend job interviews and other important events.

“One patient, in particular, felt empowered enough to attend his 50th high school reunion — something that he said he would have otherwise avoided,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how life-changing a healthy mouth can be.”

The matter is not just about having a better smile, but also maintaining dental health. By not seeing the dentist enough, there is an increased risk of oral problems flying under our radar. One can eventually suffer from tooth decay, gum disease, oropharyngeal cancer, and more as a result of forgoing routine check-ups.

However, if a veteran were to miss out on the day of free service, they can still receive support. The Healthy Mouth Movement organizes other programs to help and educate people in need, Dr. Imadomwanyi added. For instance, a 42-foot long fully-equipped dentist office on wheels travels across the country to provide free care to veterans. The MouthMobile, as it is known, has covered more than 30 states over the past four years.

On the day of service, dentists will treat dental problems such as extractions, fillings, basic denture repairs etc. Routine cleanings and exams will also be provided. Veterans are requested to call 1-844-277-3646 (1-844-ASPENHMM) to find a participating office in their community and schedule an appointment.