Smiles for Veterans

Posted at 11:16 AM, May 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-08 11:16:40-04
Stephen Leon was serving on the night watch for 8,700 sleeping soldiers in Afghanistan in 2011 when he and his partner were suddenly barraged with gunfire, hand grenades and two suicide bombers hoping to break into the barracks. Leon thwarted the assault saving thousands of lives and receiving the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. But, civilian life back in Boston was a struggle – full of hardships and setbacks. At one point, he was on the verge of homelessness. Fast forward - Stephen persevered and is now helping fellow veterans – including volunteering for the local suicide hotline.
Enter Dr. Melissa Thompson. When this local dentist and fellow veteran heard Stephen’s story, she surprised him with free dental care to help him on his road to recovery and thank him for his service to his country.
Stephen is just one of the 21+ million veterans across the U.S. today struggling to find affordable dentistry. Of those, fewer than 10 million are enrolled for VA Health benefits and more than 1.2 million lack health insurance altogether.
Moreover, there is a heightened need for dental care among veterans. Did you know: In order for veterans to qualify for full VA dental benefits, they have to be 100 percent disabled, have been a prisoner of war, or have a service-related injury to their mouths? 
That’s why on Saturday June 24, 2017, participating Aspen Dental offices across the country are offering veterans free dental care as part of its Healthy Mouth Movement initiative. Aspen estimates nearly 450 offices in more than 30 states will participate in the fourth annual Day of Service.
Since 2014, more than 12,000 patients have received free dental care through the Healthy Mouth Movement, resulting in over $7.6 million dollars in donated dental care.
Dr. Thompson, a Massachusetts National Guard veteran and Aspen Dental practice owner, and Stephen Leon