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Q: Are any dentists in this area participating in Illinois Dentists Salute, the program that offers some free dental care to veterans this month?

A: There’s just one dentist in East Central Illinois on a list of participating dentists supplied by the Illinois State Dental Society, and it’s Dr. J. BARRY HOWELL of Urbana.

The Illinois Dentists Salute program is intended to fill an urgent need for dental care for veterans struggling with poverty and illness.

It’s up to each participating dentist to determine priority treatments for veterans seeking care at their offices and how many free appointments they’ll make available, according to the state dental society.

Fewer than 100 dentists in the state are listed as participating in Illinois Dental Salute this year. But dental society staff member PAM CUFFLE said there may be others providing some free care to veterans.

“A lot of them do it on their own,” she said

Most veterans don’t qualify for any government coverage for dental services unless they’re 100 percent disabled, have a service-related dental issue or were a prisoner of war, according to the state dental society.

“Veterans of the United States military often struggle with poverty, disabilities and other illnesses,” says a description of Illinois Dentists Salute on the organization’s website. “Neglected dental needs cause unbearable pain, difficulty eating and life-threatening infections spreading from the mouth into the bloodstream. The problem is widespread, and the treatment is underfunded or not funded at all.”

Dentists providing some free care to veterans aren’t restricted to offering the appointments strictly on Veterans Day this coming Monday. Nor are they limited to providing that free care during November.

Cuffle said the state dental society will also be making 200 appointments available to veterans at its upcoming Mission of Mercy event set for June 25-27, 2020, in Rockford.

Howell said he and many fellow dentists have offered this assistance for years to veterans who don’t have the means to seek out care.

“Giving back is what dentistry does,” he said.

Howell has had a dental practice in Urbana for 30 years and is a past president of the Illinois State Dental Society.

He’s also an active monthly volunteer providing dental care to patients of Promise Healthcare’s SmileHealthy Dental Clinic.