COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — A new partnership is providing homeless veterans with free dental care as part of an effort to help them get back on their feet.
Doctor Larry Katkow sees hundreds of patients per year, but Ron Tiegal is different than the rest.
He hasn’t paid a cent for the doctor’s work, and there was a lot of work to do — his teeth were missing, broken and hollowed out by decay.
“If someone made me laugh, I had to show what I had and I had a lot of missing teeth,” Tiegal said.
Tiegal lives with 135 other homeless veterans at the Baltimore Station, where the goal is to get them back on their feet and back to work.
“When a veteran is homeless, dental hygiene is not on the top of their priority list,” said Todd Troester with Baltimore Station.
While Baltimore Station helps the veterans find jobs, sometimes their busted up mouths hold them back.
That’s where the partnership comes in.
“These guys are going to interview for jobs eventually, and often times the interview is over as soon as they smile,” said dentist Jim Tanneyhill with the International College of Dentists.
Tanneyhill recruited 12 dentists, including Katkow, to help get the veterans on the right track.
“I think we’re ethically bound to help people,” Katkow said. “It’s one of those things no matter how busy we are, no matter how successful we are, we’ve got to help people out.”
So far, they’ve helped 25 people and hope to reach 50 this year.
That’s 50 people like Tiegal who don’t have to worry when they smile.
“I haven’t had a smile in over 20 years, and now I can smile easy,” he said.