Serving those who served

Veteran Gary Nelson’s story is all too common. He enjoyed good oral health his entire life until six years of cancer treatments destroyed his teeth. The cancer treatments also made it impossible for Gary to work, and he became homeless, with chronic pain in the few teeth he had left.

Without the ability to chew healthy foods, Gary couldn’t keep his blood sugar under control, and he lost his leg to complications of diabetes.

Luckily, Gary found the Victors for Veterans dental clinic in Traverse City, Michigan, and was able to receive dentures.

Funded by the Delta Dental Foundation, the Victors for Veterans dental clinic helps veterans who have no dental benefits. The clinic operates out of Northwest Michigan Health Services, a federally qualified health center in Traverse City.

University of Michigan School of Dentistry faculty and dental students provide the dental services, reaching more than 150 veterans in 2018. The clinic helps to fill a critical need for the thousands of veterans in Michigan who have no dental benefits.

For Gary, he is thrilled to be eating healthy foods again.

“You can’t believe how good a salad tastes when you haven’t been able to eat one for years,” he says.

Gary is now able to manage his diabetes with a well-balanced diet, and his new smile tells anyone all they need to know about how he feels about Victors for Veterans.