Due to over half of veterans not receiving proper dental care, the School of Dental Medicine will be providing free exams, x-rays, fillings and extractions to veterans this Veterans Day.
Veterans Care Day will take place on Thursday, Nov. 11 at the School of Dental Medicine’s main clinic in Alton, Illinois. Due to COVID-19, veterans have to pre-register by calling 618-474-7200. The clinic will be scheduling appointments until Nov. 10 and paperwork will need to be filled out upon arrival.
Fourth year dental students will be conducting procedures under the supervision of faculty. Senior dental student Tabitha Hanson of Kansas, Illinois, is one of the students who will be treating patients.
“So we pretty much will do anything that these patients need,” Hanson said. “Whether it be fillings, extractions, cleanings, we basically just bring the patients back, we do an exam, and then we determine what treatment we can get done that day.”
Veterans Care Day organizer and clinical assistant professor Dr. Katie Kosten said they will also have full oral surgery and radiology departments operating.
“There will be faculty handling or supervising patients and students on the clinic floor, but also we'll have our own oral surgery and radiology departments in full swing,” Kosten said.
Clinical assistant professor Dr. David Pierson is one of the faculty members who will be supervising students during the event.
“I assist with basically restorative procedures, doing fillings, and things and exams of that nature to give the students a good idea of what it's like once they get out of here,” Pierson said.
Hanson said Veterans Care Day is very important to her because she is a veteran herself and it's very difficult to get dental care from the Veterans Affairs Administration.
“Speaking to other veterans in the VA, it's so hard for people to get dental care through the VA. Actually the only way you can get care is if you are 100 percent disabled,” Hanson said. “So there's a huge gap of veterans that don't have dental care, because they can get health care for free if they're 30 percent disabled.”
Pierson is also a veteran and said he feels a deep connection with the other veterans he treats.
“[Joining the Air Force] made me the best dentist that I could possibly be. I feel when I see other veterans that we share something in common,” Pierson said. “And I want to be able to just continue to give back to them. They joined the service to serve their country, in some ways, the same way I did.”
Hanson said she likes the variety of demographics the school is able to treat through this clinic.
“Last year, there were kids from 22 years old, straight out of the military and there were Vietnam vets that came in,” Hanson said. “So we are covering a really broad age group of veterans which is nice.”
Kosten said she wanted to remind people the School of Dental Medicine’s clinic is an option for their routine dental care.
“I think some people have in mind that we treat more emergencies ... but we also do routine cleanings, fillings, implants, crowns, bridges and periodontal care,” Kosten said. “Anything you would get done at your regular private practice dentist, the dental school can also provide that care.”