The Midwestern State University Dental Hygiene Department will open its doors to veterans for free dental cleanings and X-rays during the second Stand Down dental hygiene clinic beginning at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, February 20, in Bridwell Hall.
Many veterans are in serious need of routine dental care, but unable to receive it because they do not have dental benefits. Unchecked dental problems can lead to more serious health issues, so good dental hygiene is an important preventative. To help veterans receive that care, MSU’s Dental Hygiene Department and a Wichita Falls chapter of the Disabled American Veterans partnered for the first Stand Down dental clinic in November, with 36 veterans receiving much-needed dental cleanings and X-rays. For the second clinic, any veteran who has not had a dental cleaning in six months or longer is eligible to receive the free treatment. Appointment times are at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The clinic can accommodate 16 patients at each time. Dental Hygiene Patient Coordinator Kathy Hammack said that if more appointments are needed, the offer for the free services will be extended so that veterans wanting to participate will be accommodated.
Hammack came up with the idea for the clinic after listening to a radio interview with actor Gary Sinise, an active veterans’ supporter. “He said that we all need to try and do something to help our veterans,” Hammack said. “We owe them so much, and they have a need that our students can fill because they need patients.” So she coordinated the clinic with Joel Jimenez, Commander of the George Register North Texas Chapter of the DAV.
Jimenez said that the interaction between the students and the veterans was deeper than just patient-hygienist. “The smile that these students give the veterans is great to see,” Jimenez said. “When students thank the vets for what they’ve done, it makes those vets feel appreciated. This clinic isn’t just a win for the college, it’s a win on the community and state level, too.”
Jimenez explained that the term “stand down” was widely used during the Vietnam War to describe bringing an infantry unit or a soldier in from the jungle for rest from combat operations. The time was used to regroup, tend to minor wounds, train new personnel, shower, shave, get a haircut, and receive hot food and drinks. This would make the combat soldiers feel good about themselves again and more confident as they returned to battle.
“When vets hear the words ‘stand down,’ they know that someone wants to help them,” Jimenez said. “Many of these veterans do not ask for help because they are too proud. MSU, the staff, Ms. Hammock, and I understand what it means to give back something to these men and women who gave so much when our country called upon them. Many of these men and women have not had a dental checkup because of limited funds and because no one has ever informed them about the services MSU has to offer.”
Dental Hygiene Department Chair Barbara DeBois said that the first clinic was an excellent learning experience for the MSU Dental Hygiene students. “Some of the veterans had issues the students had not seen before,” she said. “The patients presented a wide variety of medical and dental problems and provided case difficulty levels that helped the students meet some of their clinical requirements for the fall semester.”
To help keep veterans informed on other benefits and to answer questions, representatives from these agencies will be available at the clinic: Texas Veterans Commission, Waco Veterans Administration office, Oklahoma Veterans Health Care System, Dallas Veterans Administration North Texas Health Care System, Lawton and Fort Worth Veterans Center Mobile Van, the Veterans Administration Clinic of Wichita Falls, the Texas Veterans Land Board, Social Security Administration, cemetery and burial representatives from Dallas and Oklahoma City, vocational counselors, and OEF/EIF counselors. Food will be provided by the Shriners.
Hammack hopes that future Stand Down clinics are interdisciplinary, with nursing students and respiratory care students providing blood pressure checks and other basic services.
The dental hygiene students are required to work with a certain number of patients in order to graduate, so the MSU Dental Hygiene Clinic is open to the public Monday-Thursday mornings and Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. Services are free to MSU students and offered at reasonable rates for the public. It is necessary to make appointments for the dental services. For appointments call (940) 397-4764. For additional questions on veterans affairs, call Colm Murphy or Marci Rossi at (940) 716-8599.