IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) — Combat veterans in Iowa are receiving free dental care with the help of college students — but it’s not only for Veterans Day, and instead a year-round program.
The University of Iowa College of Dentistry has partnered with the national non-profit organization, “Everyone For Veterans“. The non-profit connects combat veterans with dental clinics for free care.
On Monday, the observation of Veterans Day (one day after it’s official date), fourth-year dental student Madeline Stead worked on U.S. Army Veteran Kenny Williams.
Williams is one of the six veterans to have been treated by the college through the program, so far. Stead has worked with him since June on a number of procedures to get his dental hygiene to tip-top shape.
“He’s done a lot for the U.S. so being able to give him some service has been a treat for us,” she said.
Through the program, Williams series of appointments, cleanings, and filings are all free. Among his procedures, he’ll be fitted with a partial denture for his top front teeth.
“It means the world to me,” Williams said. “A lot of veterans have the mental health taken care of, their physical health is taken care. No matter what they have taken care of in the system, one of the things they’re missing is dental care.”
Williams met the qualifications of the program. He is a combat veteran that receives no dental benefits from Veteran Affairs. He also falls under the low-income category.
But with dental care, it’s not only about the financial barriers.
“That’s the barrier for most people but the veterans are dealing with other issues besides just money,” Dr. Richard Williamson said.
Dr. Williamson is a clinical associate professor in the department of prosthodontics at the University of Iowa. He also helped bring the program to the school a year ago.
“My son is a veteran and so, I’m not, but that’s how I get interested in helping veterans because I saw the struggles my son went through when he came back from Iraq,” he said.
Dr. Williamson said to provide dental care not only makes a veteran’s mouth healthier, “they’re healthier throughout their whole being.”
Williams agreed it was more than a confidence boost for him.
“It gives me confidence once more and again. It gives me the ability to know that two things are being addressed for me. The main thing is my medical health that can be hindered from the dental is no longer going to be an issue,” Williams said.
For the dental school, Dr. Williamson said it’s a win-win for students and patients. It gives the students a unique patient perspective and in the case of Williams and Stead, it created a bond.
“It’s such a pleasure working with Kenny. He is so positive and upbeat and it’s fun to have him in my chair,” Stead said.
The school hopes to not only spread the message to provide help for more veterans, but Dr. Williamson said they also want to encourage more clinics in Iowa to get involved and help veterans.
“We share in that responsibility because the VA can’t do everything right?,” he said.
Stead said she has six months left of school but that her work with Williams has made her realize she now wants to do more to help veterans.
That’s exactly what the dental program wanted from their students. Dr. Williams said the hope is that after graduation, they hope their students will bring the program along with to their future practices.
While the “Everything for Veterans” program is only for combat veterans, the dental school does provide care for all veterans at a lower, more affordable cost. Information can be found here.
Individuals not involved in dentistry that are still interested in helping veterans can “Be A Wingman“.