NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla — There are more than 300,000 veterans in the Tampa Bay Area alone and a local non-profit has been helping provide many of them with dental work because most don’t qualify for Veteran Affairs dental benefits.
A new set of molars will give Jasmine Johnson, an Army veteran in Tampa, a whole new outlook on life.
“I get to live it up again! Have fun!” She said with a laugh.
She’s one of several dozen veterans that have received dental implants through Smile Faith Dental in Pasco county Thursday and Friday.
“It helps us so much on so many different levels because a lot of veterans are income-based veterans which means they are on a fixed income,” Johnson said.
Dr. Mike O’Carroll, the Vice President of Operations at Smile Faith Foundation, says they offer free and low-cost dental work to not only veterans, and human trafficking and domestic violence survivors. They offer the services through donations and partnerships.
“Nobody else is doing what we do,” he said.
Dentists from all over the country came to Tampa these past two days to learn how to place dental implants. Dr. O’Carroll said they pay for the course and practice on veterans that really need the work!
“If you are missing one tooth, just one tooth, that really can change your life and if we can give that back to an individual it is an invaluable service that we get,” said Dr. Lon Mcrae, a licensed dentist from Idaho.
He is also one of the instructors. He said this type of collaboration isn’t possible in other states although he’d like to see that change.
“In the state of Florida through Smile Faith, they are able to have a temporary license that we can come in and be able to work with these patients. Not every state can do that and that’s why this is so valuable here,” he said.
IDS biotech is the group that provides the equipment and implant supplies. Steven Pfefer, the Vice President of sales said he didn’t realize how much partnering with Smile Faith would mean until he came down and met with veterans.
“I think the Smith Faith organization is unique and I would love to see it replicated in other areas of the country or just expanded from this location to other locations across the country,” he said.
Smile Faith has a second location in Kentucky.
Thursday, around 15-20 veterans came in and students placed around 70-80 implants. Friday, it was a similar story.
“We really have to honor the veterans that have kept us, our country what it is today and the freedoms that we have, and to be able to work with these veterans is truly an honor,” said Dr. McRae.
To donate to Smile Faith Foundation, click here.