It started with a simple question by a caring dentist: “what about a free dental care day for veterans on Veterans Day?” Dr. Stan Lowrance, a long-tenured dentist in Rockwall, Texas, asked the question, and a discussion of VA dental coverage gaps with an American Legion member cemented the need. This morphed into a collaborative effort by Terry Fisher American Legion Post 117 and Lowrance Dental Clinic to provide a free dental care day in conjunction with Veterans Day — D-Day for V-Day. On Nov. 10, 2017, 52 deserving veterans received free dental care.
Lowrance realized the importance of giving back to those who purchased freedom to allow his family and practice to prosper, and consequently wants to make D-Day an annual event in conjunction with the Veterans Day holiday. Want to join us? Here’s how we did it.
Find Your Dentist
Obviously, if your post is fortunate enough to have a practicing dentist, your solution is at hand. If not, you might start your search by asking post members to approach their personal dentist. Community service organizations like Rotary International or a Chamber of Commerce might yield candidates. Rotarians, in particular are good candidates because they have a tradition for charity and service and your chances are enhanced if a Legion member is also a Rotarian. Dentists who are former members of the armed forces are natural candidates. Finding your D-Day dentist is your necessary first step.
Armed forces experience normally teaches good planning skills, and planning is essential to a successful D-Day. Our post developed two planning products: a treatment capacity plan and an event plan.
Treatment capacity identifies offered dental services, treatment cycle time and patient load projections. Lowrance identified the scope of D-Day services as an examination followed by a prophylaxis (teeth cleaning) or a first-line dental procedure (filling or extraction). Then, he estimated treatment cycle times for prophylaxis (30 minutes) and first-line dentistry (40 minutes). Factoring the dental staff available, the post generated a process flow diagram that estimated practice capacity at 6 patients every 40 minutes.
Event planning consisted of creating a scheduling process, publicity and identifying Legion volunteers to schedule appointments and check in veterans on the day of the event. Scheduling was performed using a spreadsheet and veterans were encouraged to call or text for appointments. Cellphones were useful for texting back confirmed appointment times.
Expanding the Good Works
The Lowrance Clinic’s dental supply company donated consumable supplies to reduce the cost burden, and the Texas A&M Dental School provided student dentists and hygienists to work the afternoon, giving the clinic staff a breather. Chic-fil-A and Culpepper’s Steak House provided catered breakfast and lunch for Legion and clinic volunteers.
D-Day A Solid Success
The projected deferred cost per veteran served was $365, and that is a substantial sum in recognition of serving the most deserving. Many veterans reported not having seen a dentist for years because of the high cost of treatment. Some with challenging dental problems were carried over for afternoon work or were referred to the Texas A&M Dental School for follow-up work. Twenty-five dental clinicians, 8 dental students and 7 American Legion volunteers made a considerable contribution to veteran quality of life and dental health. We are already planning next year’s event.
Your D-Day in 2018?
Do you want to join us in sponsoring a D-Day for your post? We’ll be glad to help you get started. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
T.J. Galli is a member of the Terry Fisher American Legion post in Rockwall, Texas. Established in 1919, the post is named for the first Rockwall County resident killed in action during WWI — Private Terry Fisher, USMC. In 2019, Post 117 will celebrate its centennial of serving the most deserving.