Aspen Dental doctors provide free dental care to local Chicago veterans
When we moved to Chicago, one of the things we were most surprised by was the extraordinary sense of community here. So, as sisters and local dentists who own our own practices, we were looking for ways to contribute and give back to the community.
Our opportunity came recently when we teamed up with the Chicago branch of Volunteers of America to address a serious problem that exists in communities across the nation that most aren't even aware of -- that many of our veterans can't afford the dental care they desperately need. The sad fact is veterans aren't eligible for dental care coverage through the VA unless they are 100 percent disabled, have a service-related injury to the mouth, or were a prisoner of war. This means that tens of thousands of veterans across the country aren't getting the dental care they need, and many suffer serious health repercussions because of it. An unhealthy mouth can significantly increase the risk of a heart attack, stroke, diabetes and even cancer.
It turns out there are more than 75,000 veterans in Chicago alone, and parts of Cook County are also classified as dental health professional shortage areas by the U.S. Department of Health and Human services. That means even those who can afford dental care still struggle with limited access to providers.
As part of Aspen's Healthy Mouth Movement, we recently had the opportunity to bring the MouthMobile -- a 42-foot dentist office on wheels that travels all over the country to provide veterans with accessible, free dental care -- to the West Loop neighborhood. Since 2014, Aspen dentists and their teams have donated more than $15 million in free dental care to more than 22,000 veterans in need, providing everything from cleanings, fillings and extractions to oral cancer screenings.
We were thrilled to have the MouthMobile in Chicago on April 16 to provide free care for our local vets, and to give back to the community that has given us so much. Together with volunteers from our own teams, we were able to provide free care to 24 veterans and meet with community leaders to discuss the importance of affordable, accessible dental care.
Veterans are a huge part of our population that isn't getting the care it needs, and the opportunity to provide dental care to them at no cost was an incredible experience.
Service is an attitude that's contagious, and when communities like ours come together to care for one another, it becomes more than a mission. It becomes a movement.