Dental office in Manchester honors veterans with free care for Veterans Day

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MANCHESTER, Iowa (KCRG)- Businesses sometimes offer a free meal or other token to those who served to honor Veterans Day. But one dental office in Manchester once again provided something even more valuable on Friday to veterans.

Dr. Zachary Stecklein of Dental Associates in Manchester works on a veteran who came in for the free care. The clinic offers a free Friday for vets before every Veterans Day.

That was a day of free dental care.

Three years ago, staffers at Dental Associates in Manchester heard about a dental office in Michigan that came up with the idea of free services for vets for Veterans Day.

They immediately thought we can do that and on Friday, they did it again.

On most Fridays, the chairs at the office in Manchester would be filled with regular paying patients. But the rule is on Fridays before Veterans Day it’s veterans only and no charge.

Ralph Brown, who served in peacetime in the late 1950s, appreciate the savings.

“A big lift, that’s what it is. You know how expensive it can be, the teeth, to take care of them,” he said.

Last year the three dentists and 22 staffers at Dental Associates donated time and materials worth about $25,000 to care for any veteran who showed up.

Dentists say older and low-income veterans can be an underserved population for dental care because not all dentists accept Medicaid and wait times for dental services at a VA center can take months.

Some vets who can’t afford it simply go without regular dental care.

Dr. Zachary Stecklein says while the office staff provides something of value they also get something in return.

“Our country owes a lot to the men and women who served. This is just our little part to do to help,” Dr. Stecklein said.

Ellen Hauser, a dental assistant, added “they’re (vets) so appreciative it’s so amazing. They’re so thankful we do this for them.”

Veterans who came for the free care had a choice of either a cleaning, a tooth filling or a tooth extraction.

But if there was time, and they needed more care, they could get back in line and go through again for another procedure.

Staffers at the office say turnout the first year was a bit slow because many vets in the area weren’t aware of the free Friday at the dental office.

But with social media, advertising and reaching out to veterans organizations a lot more veterans are coming in to take advantage of the offer.