Danica Patrick took to the track for this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway, race fans noticed her blue-and-white No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS looked a little different than usual. That’s because in honor of our nation’s veterans, Patrick’s car featured the names of more than 2,200 veterans who were “saluted” earlier this year by Americans across the country on Aspen Dental’s Facebook page.

The team from Aspen Dental gave back to the veteran community by presenting leading veteran organization, Got Your 6, with a check for $75,000 to help veterans continue their service back home.

The social media campaign was designed to honor their contributions to our country and bring attention to the fact that many veterans do not receive the dental care they desperately need.

“I’m proud to be racing with the names of so many of our nation’s veterans on my car,” said Patrick. “Aspen Dental dentists have made a real difference in the lives of many veterans by providing free care through the Healthy Mouth Movement and I’m honored to continue to support this initiative.”

From left: NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, veteran Randall Murray, veteran Stephen Leon, Aspen Dental dentist Dr. Jere Gillan, veteran Robert L. Gordon, president of Got Your 6's parent organization Be The Change, Inc, and veteran Peter Bouley.

Four of the 2,200 veterans featured on the special paint scheme of Patrick’s Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS attended the race as guests of Aspen Dental practices. They were among more than 250 veterans to receive free, comprehensive dentistry as part of Aspen Dental’s “A Smile for Your Service” effort. Stephen Leon, an Army Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient from Boston; Randall Murray, a former B-52 bomber tail gunner hailing from Jonesboro, Arkansas; Peter Bouley, a former Marine who served on the front lines during the Tet Offensive from Providence, Rhode Island; and Justin Bodine, a recently-returned Iraqi War veteran from Springfield, Illinois, all received thousands of dollars worth of dental work from the Aspen Dental practices in their communities.

These veterans were invited to the race to see their names featured on the No. 10 Chevrolet SS and to help Aspen Dental further give back to the veteran community by presenting leading veteran organization and partner, Got Your 6, with a check for $75,000.

“We’re incredibly thankful for Aspen Dental’s partnership with us and we’re honored to continue to help them raise awareness for dental care for our military’s veterans,” said Rob Gordon, president of Be The Change, who oversees Got Your 6 operations. “Improving a veteran’s smile can make a big difference in their lives and can lead to restoring confidence and contribute to tackling some of life’s challenges.”

For many veterans, maintaining their oral health is a luxury instead of a necessity. Veterans cannot receive any dental care needed from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) unless they are classified as 100 percent disabled, have a service-connected dental condition, or have a service-oriented medical condition that is affected by their mouth – conditions that many veterans do not meet.

That is why this year, Aspen Dental’s Healthy Mouth Movement, a community-giving initiative, is highlighting the lack of dental care for veterans and is expected to help 5,000 veterans across 300 Aspen Dental offices around the country and provide more than $3 million in donated dentistry.

“As an Air Force veteran myself, I know firsthand the challenges that many veterans face upon returning to civilian life and this initiative holds special significance to me,” said Jere Gillan, Doctor of Medicine and Dentistry, an Aspen Dental dentist and practice owner in Florida who has helped lead the Healthy Mouth Movement. “I feel a great sense of pride that my fellow dentists and I have been able to help make a positive impact on these patients’ lives.”

The lack of oral healthcare for veterans is part of a larger oral health issue in America as there are 155 million American adults who did not go to the dentist last year and nearly half of people over the age of 30 suffer from some form of gum disease.

Cost and access to dental care are big contributors to this problem. According to a study by a leading polling firm, two in five Americans have limited, or will delay, dental care because of their financial situation. This is despite the fact that 80 percent of them know that delaying routine visits will cost them more money in the long run.

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