Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”
And what better lives to improve than those of the millions of United States veterans who have sacrificed so much in service to our country? While some veterans smoothly transition from military to civilian life, others struggle due to physical, emotional, and economic wounds that can take a long time to heal.
As I’m reminded every year, on Aspen Dental’s Day of Service, simple acts of gratitude and kindness to veterans can make a significant difference in their lives. By offering free dental care to any veteran who needs it on Saturday, June 8, at more than 450 locations in 37 states, Aspen Dental-branded practices are making a small gesture that can change a life.
Take Nadine Nowlin. A Pennsylvania resident and disabled Air Force veteran, Nadine struggled after being injured in an accident and was even homeless for a time. She rebuilt her life and is herself an active volunteer in service to others. But that often required her to do some public speaking, something that embarrassed her because some of her teeth were missing.
She was self-conscious and wanted a better smile. Thanks to the Aspen Dental team in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, she was able to get that confidence back.
Nadine is but one of thousands of veterans who have benefitted from the Day of Service, which serves as the cornerstone of the Healthy Mouth Movement, which was launched in 2014. The Day of Service is all about thanking veterans by getting them out of pain and empowering them with the gift of a healthier mouth.
This year, dentists and their teams from Aspen Dental practices across the country expect to give free dental care to approximately 5,000 vets on June 8, bringing the initiative’s six-year total to more than 26,000 veterans served and nearly $15 million in donated dentistry.
I’m proud of the many hours volunteered by the Aspen Dental teams because dental care is an ongoing issue for millions of veterans and other Americans. Nearly 150 million people didn’t go to the dentist last year, with many facing barriers to regular and proper care. Some reside in places with little or no access to care, while others lack the insurance needed to keep care affordable. This is especially challenging for US veterans, as most are ineligible for dental benefits through the Veterans Administration unless they are 100% disabled, are former prisoners of war, or have received a service-related mouth injury.
As Nadine’s story illustrates, many without access to dental care are in pain, physically and/or emotionally. And the goal of Day of Service is to relieve that pain, but also to help veterans become aware of what other dental needs they have and connect them to free or low-cost resources so they can continue to address their dental care needs in the long term.
Dentistry is known to be a challenging yet extremely rewarding profession. From the conversations I have every day with the 1,200 dentists whose practices Aspen Dental supports, I know that that the volunteer work done during the Day of Service is especially meaningful.
The ability to brighten the lives and smiles of these American heroes is a gratifying experience. So, too, are the visits of Aspen Dental’s MouthMobile, a 42-foot long dentist office on wheels that travels state to state providing free care to veterans in communities where care may not be easy to access.
In the words of Iswara Parvathaneni, DDS, a longtime Aspen Dental practice owner who provided free care in Buffalo during a MouthMobile stop last year, “It is an honor to give back to our nation’s veterans, who have dedicated their lives to serve and protect.”
I encourage all dental practitioners to reach out to veterans and others in need in their communities, and do what they do best—provide high-quality dental care. The benefits will be quite obvious for those whom you serve, but you’ll experience tangible rewards, too.
Do you know a veteran who could benefit from Aspen Dental’s Day of Service? Appointments are required, but available. Call (844) 277-3646 (1-844-ASPENHMM) to find a participating office.
Dr. Judge is chief clinical officer at Aspen Dental Management Inc (ADMI), where he develops, implements, and leads programs that support the dentists who own and operate Aspen Dental branded practices. He also serves as a clinical liaison to nearly 1,200 dentists across the country, providing professional development, support, and mentorship, and as chair of ADMI’s credentialing committee. Before joining ADMI in 2008, he owned and operated several dental practices, and was president at East West Management Services. He received his DDS degree from the New York University College of Dentistry and holds a certificate from the Executive Management Program from Northwestern University-Kellogg School of Management.