Saluting with a Smile-November, 2017
Editor’s note: With the divisiveness we hear about in our world, the Ames Tribune wants to offer a bright spot in our community in a weekly feature that shows people working to bring people together through kind gestures. This week we feature Ames dentist, Dentistry At Somerset, which is providing free dental care as part of the Smiles for FREEdom program.
One might say the folks at Dentistry At Somerset are trying to repay it forward with a smile.
The dentists and staff at Dentistry At Somerset, 2720 Stange Road, will be providing free dental care to veterans and emergency responders Friday. It is the second year the clinic on Stange Road has offered its time free of charge, and they expect to see 25 patients during the day.
Marcie Niegsch, the clinic’s community relations director, said the clinic first offered the service in 2015, when it provided $7,000 to 11 patients. This year is the first year the clinic has participated in the national Smiles for FREEdom campaign, organized by a Reno, Nevada, dentistry practice, where a dental hygienist hatched the idea for the campaign, said Niegsch, whose husband Jason is a dentist at the clinic and a Navy veteran.
“My husband was in the Navy and his father was in the Navy, and the Navy helped pay for part of (her husband’s) dental school education,” Niegsch said. “Being in the Navy gave him a greater appreciation for the service and the men and women who serve our country, and the sacrifices they and their families make so all of us can have the freedoms we’re lucky to have. We want to do anything we can to give back to them, and this is the talent we can share.
“Times are difficult right now and we want to honor … our veterans and show them how much we admire and appreciate them.”
In addition to the free care, the staff at Dentistry at Somerset is donating all its time for the event, Niegsch said.
“Everyone is really passionate about this and want to give up their day to do something for those that have done so much for us,” she said.
The care that will be provided will range from basic cleanings to bridges and crowns. Ames Oral Surgeons is partnering with Dentistry At Somerset to offer free oral surgery to patients who need it, Niegsch said.
Other partners include Fareway, which is provided sandwiches, drinks and pastries for patients, and Fast Signs, which is providing banners for the event.
The clinic also has worked with local and area veterans groups and churches to get the word out, as well as receiving 100 free ads on the local cable channel, Niegsch said.
Patients were asked to email in advance describing the nature of care they may need. No questions about insurance or finances will be asked, Niegsch said.
Niegsch’s husband and fellow dentist Dr. Daniel Garman were expected to begin seeing patients at 8 a.m. Niegsch said most patients were expected to be seen in the morning, but care for several patients could continue into the afternoon.
Roger Plath, 69, of Boone, received care two years ago as well as helping to organize the event. This year he will return again as a patient.
“It means a lot to me personally because as we get older our dental issues seem to get more dramatic,” he said. “A couple of years ago I was able to refer a veteran and he and his wife were tears as they saw the work that they did for him. She was incredibly grateful and it was a very emotional experience for them.”
Plath, an Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War, is active with local veterans groups and helped organize this past summer’s Freedom Flight in Boone County. He said the Dentistry at Somerset program is just one example of how a business and community can show its appreciation to veterans.
“Veterans have given so much, a lot of us gave up the early years of our lives to serve our country, and we appreciate that they are offering to serve our veterans. It shows our current veterans and those that will serve in the future that we will take care of them and honor their service to the country.”
Two years ago, Plath said he had some cavities filled. This year other dental issues discovered during a recent cleaning will be addressed, he said.
“I was very troubled by issues I had so when they called and said they would help me out with this I was in tears myself,” Plath said.