Ames dental clinic gives back to veterans


Courtesy of Craig Carroll Photography

Dr. Jason Niegsch (right) and veteran Jim Ling (left). 

Talon Delaney

An Ames dental clinic provided free dental care for more than 20 veterans on Nov. 3.

Dentistry at Somerset teamed up with Ames Oral Surgeons to put on the event, which they called Smiles For Freedom. Doctors saw 22 veterans from Story County and across central Iowa and performed more than $14 thousand worth of dental procedures for absolutely no cost.

“Many of the veterans we saw didn’t have the means to routine type dental care,” said Dr. Jason Niegsch, a Navy veteran and dentist at the Somerset clinic.

Niegsch served as a Navy Lieutenant for 3 years, and operated as a dentist at stations in Chicago, Illinois and Okinawa, Japan. It was his idea to put on the event.

Niegsch said Smiles For Freedom streamlined the dental care process by eliminating tedious paperwork and putting patients straight in the operating chair.

“Ever since I served, I’ve felt compelled to help veterans when I could,” Niegsch said.

Dentistry at Somerset put on a similar event in 2015, when Niegsch was the lone doctor at the clinic. Since then, their dental team’s numbers increased, including the addition of dental physician Dr. Daniel Garman.

“It was rewarding to see my team get involved… I hope events like this motivate others in the community to give back to veterans,” Niegsch said.

Smiles For Freedom was more personal for some staff members than others. Dental Assistant Marnie Overland comes from a family of veterans, and she felt grateful her profession allowed her to give back to those who served.

“I always hoped I could work with a dentist who would let me do this,” Overland said. She is the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, and has two brothers who served in the military. Her father was among those who received care that day.

“It was wonderful… he doesn’t have dental insurance, and [dental insurance] can be expensive. That’s what we saw with a lot of the vets,” Overland said.

The staff worked constantly throughout the day to provide dental care to every veteran who showed.

“My hope is more people will start giving back to the vets. It’s not only great for today’s vets, but it lets future vets know we’ll be here to take care of them,” Overland said.