Those in earshot of Lindsay Von Behren can’t help but wince in discomfort — or grind their teeth in frustration — after hearing the stories of some veterans who need a little help.
“One of our patients, she wasn’t getting any help from [the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as the VA],” Von Behren said. “She didn’t have insurance. She didn’t have choices. This was a Vietnam veteran who served our country, and she’d been extracting her own front teeth herself. But she couldn’t extract her back teeth, which is where we came in.”
Von Behren, patient care coordinator for Advanced Family Dentistry, said the vet in need of help was one of too many stories she and the rest of her office staff had seen far too often: a veteran unable to receive necessary help because he or she either couldn’t get help from the VA or was simply under- or uninsured.
Which is why, for the last three years, Advanced Family Dentistry, helmed by Dr. Kent Mosby from his Irownwood office, has taken the local lead on Freedom Day USA. It’s a nationwide effort to provide free services to veterans, a small show of gratitude for their service.
“I have a special place in my heart for veterans,” Von Behren said. “So when we heard about Freedom Day, it really resonated with us.”
The yearly event, which takes place every second Thursday in October, was born from dentistry. A dental chain in West Virginia initially began the all-volunteer tradition in 2013. For the past three years, Mosby’s Ironwood office staff has sacrificed some time for veterans in need, veterans Von Behren said have sacrificed so much more.
“I wish we could do it more than just once a year,” she said. “It’s so important that we honor our service members who gave so much but are having trouble helping themselves right now.”
All day this Thursday, Mosby and his team will provide dental care to uninsured and underinsured veterans, as well as veterans turned away or unable to get help from the VA. Van Behren said that while she and the staff at Advanced Family Dentistry appreciate the sacrifices of all men and women who served in the armed forces, Freedom Day USA is meant for very specific patients.
“If you can get something done at the VA, or if you have insurance you can utilize for dental care, you need to do that,” she said. “This isn’t for you. This is meant for people who don’t have dental benefits but need dental care, even if it’s just a check-up.”
Von Behren is impressed by how the community’s businesses are gradually rallying behind Freedom Day USA more and more each year. This Thursday, Dr. Brent Matteson and his staff at Lakeview Dental Clinic, Dr. J.R. Haynie and the staff at Lakeside Oral Surgery, Ivory Denture Clinic, Quality Dental Lab and Affordable Dentures are all donating time or resources.
“I know how [the Armed Forces] treats its patients,” said Matteson, an 11-year veteran as a dentist in the Army. “We did the best we could, and I know the VA does the best they can. And I know the sacrifices veterans gave, and what that meant. This was a great way to help out.”
Matteson, who will participate for his second straight year Thursday, added that most veterans will never qualify for dental care through the VA. Mosby said that lack of care was a motivating factor in his decision to volunteer.
“My son was a Marine,” Mosby said. “He served five years; he just got out a little while ago, actually. I’m very proud of him, and I know the sacrifices he had to make, that all veterans made. So this is just one of those things where you’ve got to do something.”
The dental teams will perform extractions, fillings, check-ups and other dentistry needs. Matteson said the single-tooth and basic procedures won’t be a total fix to every veteran’s needs.
Mosby said his participation in Freedom Day USA came easily and serendipitously, as his business coach mentioned the program to him in passing.
“When my business partner mentioned that dentists from around the country were doing this, I said, ‘Sign me up,’” Mosby recalled. “In a matter of one day, we had everything organized. It was just one of those things that came together for us.”
The Coeur d’Alene dentist said that virtually all locals in his profession contribute to the community, and that their efforts and volunteerism shouldn’t be ignored, whether they serve the homeless or low-income families or churches. He said Freedom Day USA was simply a program that personally spoke to his heart.
If you’re a veteran in need of dental care but have inadequate or no dental insurance, and you do not qualify for dental benefits through the VA, call Von Behren at 208-667-1154 to schedule a Thursday appointment.