A dental clinic for homeless veterans

The Geis Dental Clinic provides services to veterans regardless of their ability to pay.

SAN DIEGO — One of the first things you may notice about someone is their smile. 

A dental clinic for homeless veterans is improving the smile of vets every day, and its services are free. When someone who has been living on the street gets a chance to restart their life, like many are trying to do at Veterans Village, they say having bad teeth and a bad smile can really hold them back. 

Army veteran Randy Geering spent 33 years in prison. He went behind bars in 1989 and got out in 2021.  

“I was basically dropped on a whole new planet,” said Geering. “Everything had changed. I had never used a cell phone. It’s been difficult. Rents are outrageous in San Diego.” 

He ended up homeless. “It was depressing,” he says, “I would go down to the beach to shower, a cold shower. Not being able to shave properly. It was demoralizing.” 

For years, Geering says he didn’t have much to smile about. And if he did smile, he’d hide it. He says he grew his mustache long to cover his mouth because his teeth were so messed up. 

He got a place to live in San Diego’s Veterans Village. His case worker referred him to the John Geis Dental Clinic on-site. When Geering walked in the door, he had eight teeth. He also had an upper plate. He says, “It was kind of worn out because I used the upper to chew on because it didn’t connect with the bottom. I didn’t have a clear bite.” 

But then Geering met Dr. James Witcher, the clinic’s director. Dr. Witcher is a veteran himself. He started his career as a navy dentist and then went into private practice for several decades before he retired.  

Now he takes care of other veterans who were recently homeless, and who have found a place at Veterans Village. They come in with rotten, cracked, and missing teeth. 

“When we first see them, they’re a little bit embarrassed,” said Witcher. “They’re not really sure how they want to describe their issues and they don’t want to talk much about it. We say, hey. We’ve seen it all. Don’t be embarrassed. We’ll do what we can to get you back in good shape and get you some teeth back in there.” 

From fillings to root canals, The Geis Dental Clinic provides services to veterans regardless of their ability to pay. Dentists who are members of its affiliated organization, the San Diego County Dental Society, provide pro bono care. Specialists like oral surgeons even come in and volunteer their services. San Diego County Dental Foundation funds the purchase of supplies, instruments, and lab work on an ongoing basis. The annual budget to run the Clinic, including supplies and lab fees, tops $200,000. We need your help to keep our Clinic running. 

“We’re just a small part of getting them back on their feet, getting them back on track, getting them back on regular life,” says Witcher. “You can tell that they’re very happy. They’re amazed at what we can do for them.” 

For Geering, he says he loves his new smile. “This clinic, for what they do for veterans, is unbelievable. It’s changed my life.”

RELATED: San Diego non-profit puts elderly homeless people into hotel rooms

WATCH RELATED: San Diego non-profit puts elderly homeless people into hotel rooms

RELATED: Free mobile veterinary relief tour returns to San Diego Day Center to help homeless pets

WATCH RELATED: Free mobile veterinary relief tour returns to San Diego Day Center to help homeless pets

Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.