SALINAS, Calif. (KION) A Central Coast veteran named John received a special Veterans Day gift Monday -- a new set of teeth.
The entire procedure was free, provided by dental professionals who volunteer their services through the nonprofit "Dentistry4Vets.org."
“Just imagine if you’re missing one of your front teeth, it’s hard to go out and get a job. Your self-esteem is down. Your self-worth, those kinds of things, are affected considerably by your smile,” said the organization's founder, Dr. George Yellich.
That is something that Tony White knows all too well. The Army vet lost his lower teeth to years of neglect and drug abuse.
"Maybe nobody else knew because I had a partial ... but I knew deep down inside that I'd ruined my mouth because of my addiction and everything," said White.
Last year, volunteers with Dentistry 4 Vets gave White a full set of implants and all new lower teeth, a procedure he could never afford on his own.
White was on hand Monday to support fellow veteran John, who underwent a similar extensive procedure. The entire cost was paid by donations.
White expects it will pay big dividends.
"It’s life changing. I don’t know how to express it. It’s like a second, beautiful chance at life,” he said.
For now, Dentistry 4 Vets rotates services at the offices of its volunteer providers.
Yellich says that CHOMP and Montage Health have donated space for a permanent facility near the Veterans Transition Center in Marina, which he expects will be opening in about four months.