Operation Stand Down is coming to Fort Smith, allowing veterans to receive free dental care just in time for Veterans Day. It’s part of a program that began 10 years ago and this year will include eight dentists in Fort Smith.
In 2012, Dr. Daniel Fridh, based in La Porte, Ind., noticed a trend of neglected mouths among his ex-military patients, he knew something had to be done. A veteran, who served in the Air Force for three years, and conducted his dental residency there, Fridh understood the demands on military men and women.
So, he helped launch Operation Stand Down, a program designed to offer veterans a free dental examination and free or reduced followup services. The initial program involved the participation of 22 volunteer dentists, served 90 veterans, and provided $150,000 worth of services.
This year, Dr. Charles Liggett has joined forces with the program to offer veterans free teeth cleanings and extractions on Thursday (Nov. 10). Though this is Liggett’s first time to help with Operation Stand Down, offered through the International College of Dentists (ICD), it is not his first time to volunteer his time and resources to free dental clinics. He founded the Weekend Dental Clinic and the Free Extraction Day to provide those in need with free or affordable dental care, his website states. The idea for the projects stemmed from his dental mission trips to Jamaica.
“I try to give back whenever I can. … In 2023, I will be making my 21st trip to Jamaica to offer free extractions. But this is something I can do to help our veterans,” Liggett said.
With the addition of River Valley Smiles at 8309 Phoenix Ave., where Liggett practices dentistry, Fort Smith will join five other cities in Arkansas to offer the program to area veterans. There will be eight dentists helping with the operation at River Valley Smiles, along with all the hygienists and dental assistants from the office. They will be assisted by University of Arkansas at Fort Smith dental hygiene students, Liggett said.
Though this year’s services will be limited to cleanings and extractions, Liggett said they might be able to grow those services in the future.
Veterans wanting the service must contact the local Veterans Administration (VA) – (479) 441-2600 – and make an appointment through them. No appointments will be available by calling Liggett’s office directly.