A pilot program is bringing free comprehensive dental care to veterans in Northern Michigan.
It’s called Victors for Veterans and is providing care that goes beyond a regular checkup.
A group of University of Michigan dental students are working with Traverse City dentists to provide the care to honor those who sacrificed for our country.
“I haven’t been able to afford dental care since I left service in 2008,” said David Storm.
Storm is a Navy veteran.
Since the end of his service he’s struggled with homelessness and was unemployed for five years.
“Everything we pay for, all the insurance we have to pay for now, it’s too hard to come up with the extra for myself and my family.”
When Storm was at a free Veterans Day dental clinic, he learned about Victors for Veterans.
Thanks to the program, Thursday he received four teeth fillings and got implants for bite guards.
The program is providing long-term dental care to vets — things like crowns, bridges, dentures.
Grand Traverse Oral Surgery is helping with disease control prevention measures as well.
“Just as if you went to the dentist and said ‘Doc, I haven’t been to the dentist in a long time. Fix me up so I’m whole again,’” said Dentist Phillip Yancho, whose Traverse City office is a host site of the program.
Victors for Veterans got its first feeder patients from Deerhaven Dentistry’s Veterans Day clinic patients who needed more extensive follow-up.
Vets come in for x-rays and initial dental work. Then students develop a plan of work that partner dentists approve, and schedule follow-up appointments.
A different group of University of Michigan students worked on Victors for Veterans a few years ago. The program died with that group of graduates, and was just resurrected in 2015.
Patrick DiDonato got involved because he felt God wanted him to give more of his time.
“A lot of people who come to the dentist don’t necessarily find it comforting talking to the dentist while they’re working, but the best part has been talking to the veterans in and out of the chairs about their experience, the sacrifices they had to make,” DiDonato said.
A sacrifice for those who’ve sacrificed for us.
“It’s just a simple way to say thank you.”
Victors for Veterans has helped more than 50 vets since it began — and provided more than 215,000 dollars in free dental care.
Everything is donated from local dentists’ offices and their suppliers.
Victors for Veterans is looking to host two to three more clinics this year for its current round of clients.
If you’re interested in becoming a patient after this round is over send an email to Victors4Veterans@gmail.com.
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