Some local veterans have a new reason to smile. A dozen local veterans recently received full dentures or partial dentures from the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, thanks to a grant from the Saint Petersburg Chapter, National Society Daughter of the American Revolution.

Many veterans don’t qualify for dentures through their Veteran’s Affairs benefits. Some of the veterans previously received ill-fitting or sub-standard dentures while others had extractions months or even years ago.

Dentures can not only help a person feel more confident, but also, improve their overall health and economic standing. Some of the veterans said they couldn’t wait to eat apples, beef skewers and sourdough pretzels again – it had been months since they could eat foods beyond soft solids.

Others said they couldn’t wait to talk without covering their mouths, particularly in academic or professional settings. For Dustin, it meant feeling comfortable standing in front of a classroom. After serving 10 years in the Army, he’s pursuing an education degree at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with the plan to become a high school algebra teacher. The dentures will help him feel more confident as he begins his role as a student-teacher.

Dentures are one of the most-requested services that the Free Clinic has limited ability to provide. Still, the Free Clinic provided 103 dental appliances and 57 full or partial dentures to uninsured adults last year alone. Few other resources exist in Pinellas County for uninsured adults to receive well-made dentures at low or no cost.

The Free Clinic also provided more than 1,000 oral procedures to uninsured adults in Pinellas County last year. The procedures included cleaning, fillings, extractions, dental appliances, maintenance, and other dental services.