Saluting with a smile – Ames dentist provides free care for 37 veterans at annual event
Sunday, November 4, 2018
By Michael Crumb, Editor
For the folks at Dentistry At Somerset, it’s all about being able to give back to those who have sacrificed
so much for our country. For those who received care during the dental office’s annual Smiles for
FREEdom event, it was about getting much-needed dental care they may otherwise not receive.
The dentist and staff at Dentistry At Somerset treated 37 veterans on Friday, and have already
scheduled next year’s event.
For Jason Niegsch, a dentist for the clinic on Stange Road, the program strikes a personal note, having
served in the Navy.
“I gained an appreciation for the people and the sacrifices they make, and the idea of wanting to help
veterans, this is just a small way we can do that in the big scheme of things, “Niegsch said.
It was the third consecutive year the clinic has offered the services to veterans at no cost.
The first year, the clinic provided $7,000 in care to 11 patients. Last year it saw 20 veterans and provided
$14,000 in care, and on Friday, the dentists and staff provided $17,000 in care to 37 patients, one of
whom traveled from as far away as Denver for the services, office representative said.
Niegsch said it’s a meaningful way for him and other staff to put their skills to work helping those who
otherwise may go without. “We all got into healthcare to help people and unfortunately, day-to-day,
there are things that can complicate it, there’s insurance, there can be scheduling issues, financial
things, and it’s becoming harder to give people what they want in the moment,“ he said. “It’s gratifying
to us to be able to sit down with someone, find out what their needs are and do it on the spot.”
Sixteen Dentistry At Somerset staff volunteered their time Friday without pay to provide services. “It’s
nice to be able to use our hands, our eyes and our hearts to help our patients without creating burdens
for them,“ Niegsch said.
Because the clinic provides a full range of services for the veterans who come in, some work cannot be
completed on the same day, and the staff has those folks return for follow-up care and treatment,
Niegsch said. “Our team feels good about it and being able to help people in ways they otherwise
wouldn’t be able to,“ he said.
Larry Lenning, 70, of Ames, was one of the patients who was treated as part of the Smiles for FREEdom
day. Lenning, who served in the army in Vietnam in 1968 in 1969, said he was grateful for the
opportunity because routine dental care isn’t offered through the Veterans Administration. “I am very,
very grateful,“ Lenning said before his appointment on Friday.
It was his second year receiving care through the program. Last year he received a cleaning, some x-rays,
and had two teeth pulled. The clinic later fitted him with an upper plate, he said.
While many organizations provide free lunches or meals to veterans, he said the Smiles for FREEdom
program does so much more. “Maybe the federal government can see what these folks are doing and
take care of the veterans a little better,“ he said. “The doctors here are very good, they are helpful and
they are concerned about you and it makes you feel good.”
The dental office partnered with Fareway, FastSigns, Dynamic Mobility, Craig Carroll Photography,
Starbucks, and Wallaby’s, all of which provided various services or products to the veterans.
Keith Phillips, 67, of Ames, also said the Smile for FREEdom program provides much-needed routine care
not provided by the Veterans Administration. Phillips, who served in the Navy as a medic from 1971
through 1975 and later in the Army from 1983 through 1986, said it was his first visit to the clinic as part
of the program. He received a cleaning and had a tooth filled. “Although it’s just once a year, it’s
tremendous to have something in the community where a vet can come in and there is no difference in
the level of care or attention, or the delivery of services, and receive that level of care,” said Phillips,
who encouraged other vets to look at the program and participate next year. Next year‘s event will be
on Friday, November 1, 2019.