Local dental center providing free screenings, Covid-19 vaccinations to Veterans

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ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Dental Center, a partnership between A.T. Still University and Affinia Healthcare, is offering free screenings and oral health care for veterans as well as Covid-19 vaccinations.

They’re providing services to bring back smiles, to men and women who have served their country. 

“Three times a year we have these screening events on Saturdays for veterans to do oral cancer screenings and take a look at what they need to have done,” says Patty Inks, A.T. Still University Dental Coordinator. “Then we plan for whatever treatment we can do for them. We have a grant and donations that allow us to provide for dentures and partials at no cost to them.”   

Saturday morning, veterans arrived to the St. Louis Dental Center at 1500 Park Avenue, an hour before the 7:30 start time.

In conjunction with Affinia Healthcare, dentists, dental students and staff providing the free clinic. 

“Significant portion of veterans do not have dental benefits,” says Dr. Herbert Silva, Dentist & Marine. “This is our way, we’re in our sixth year providing dentures and partial dentures for veterans and today is where it gets started with free exams. The data that shows about the nutritional components and the self-confidence and the folks that come back get their jobs back and their lives back and to quote them, their dignity back. That’s the warm and fuzzy for me as well as watching the students learn their formal craft.” 

For former Michigan State quarterback and third year dental student, Colar Kuhns, this is an opportunity to give back. 

The clinic, also providing free covid-19 vaccinations Saturday morning for walk-ins free of charge. 

“Part of it too is for me, family that’s served in the military,” says Colar Kuhn, Dental Student A.T. Still University. “Both of my grandfathers served as military personal and it holds a special place in my heart. When you see the transformation people go through, especially if they haven’t teeth for awhile. They’re smiling and they’re confidence, able to eat and that kind of stuff.  It means a lot to them and that gives us great satisfaction.”   

The 1500 Park Avenue site, packed by mid-morning for veterans seeking dental care. For the dental students, staff and dentists, all giving up their time and talents on this Saturday morning. 

“I’ve been in the Army Reserves for 24 years and I’m currently in the Army Reserves,” says Dr. Mikal Bell, Dentist & Army Veteran. “Typically Veterans aren’t entitled to Dental benefits unless they’re 100% disabled so we’re providing assistant care and it’s a win-win for the students and the veterans.”  

“You see them coming in not being able to eat, not knowing where to go, not being happy with how they look,” says Sarah Powell, Dental Assistant. “So over the weeks you get to see them really transformed. You get to see them smile for the first time and realizing they can eat for the first time at thanksgiving and Christmas and be proud of themselves.”  

On Saturday, 156 veterans showed up today to get dental healthcare. Also a number of people stopped by to get those Covid-19 vaccinations. They will do another free dental clinic closer to Veterans Day. 

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