As we celebrate Independence Day, we reflect on the bravery and sacrifices made by our military veterans. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the incredible impact that supporters of our Lifeline Heroes Challenge have in supporting those who have served our country. Today, we want to share the inspiring story of Wilton, a courageous Afghanistan war veteran, whose life was transformed through the generosity of DLN and its dedicated volunteers.
Wilton, a 74-year-old veteran residing in Riddick, FL, spent 36 years of his life in military service before retiring. Following his deployment in Afghanistan, he faced the daunting challenges of PTSD, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and a spinal fusion in his neck. Additionally, years of chewing tobacco led to pre-cancerous lesions in his mouth, resulting in the removal of all his teeth and part of his upper and lower jaw bones.
Due to the Veterans Administration only offering dental coverage directly connected to military service, Wilton had to pay $4,000 out-of-pocket for this extensive work. The additional treatment required to transform his oral health including restoring his jawbone and being fitted for dentures was far beyond his reach and other safety net resources denied coverage.
After years of a diet consisting of soup and liquids, Wilton’s discovered Dental Lifeline Network through the Moffitt Cancer Center. Dr. Wayne Harper, a dedicated DLN volunteer since 2019, stepped forward to help restore Wilton’s oral health. Given the complexity of Wilton’s case and his extensive needs, additional volunteers and laboratories rallied together to assist in his journey towards a healthy mouth. A volunteer oral surgeon placed four implants, donated by Straumann USA, in a hospital setting. Dr. Harper also partnered with two volunteer labs to donate full upper and lower implant-retained dentures.
Wilton received donated care valued at $28,000. The impact of this care was profound, as it not only restored Wilton’s oral health and ability to eat but also gave him back his smile. This made his 5-year-old grandson especially happy.
“My grandson is no longer freaked out by no teeth!” Wilton’s wife, Andrea, shared. “My husband can now smile! He is enjoying so many of his favorite foods! Our appreciation cannot really be expressed in words. Thank you, you are a blessing.”
Dental Lifeline Network and the remarkable volunteers who transformed Wilton’s oral health are honored to serve veterans like him. Each year, DLN and its dedicated volunteers are the last hope for approximately 1,000 veterans who would otherwise be unable to access the dental care they require. But many more veterans are still waiting for help. You can help change their lives by supporting our Lifeline Heroes Challenge to enable dental care for more veterans like Wilton.