Salute to Smiles helps its first female veteran

Posted: 10:49 PM, Aug 16, 2017
Updated: 2017-08-16 23:49:18-04

Barbra Hass felt proud to put on her uniform during her nearly eight years in the U.S. Army, but you rarely see her smiling in photos taken during her deployment in Afghanistan.

"I had a lot of self consciousness because of my dentures and my smile, you know, it wasn't very appealing to me."

Hass' dentures replaced her missing teeth, but they didn't fit properly which made it difficult to chew and talk. She tried to avoid social situations.

"I didn't really want to go out very often just because I was so embarrassed about it. You know, I'd often talk with my hand in front of my mouth." 

She would've liked to fix the problem, but she couldn't afford it.

"If you get out of the service and you're not disabled, there is no V.A. care for you in dentistry," explained Dr. David LeMoine of Bay Oral Surgery & Implant Center.

He wanted to help his fellow veterans from falling through the cracks, so he teamed up with other ex-military oral surgeons to provide the Salute to Smiles program.    

"It's really a great feeling because there are so many that are so very, very deserving."

This year, six veterans were chosen to receive desperately needed dental procedures, at no cost, to improve their health and quality of life.

"A person's personality suddenly bubbles to the surface. They've been keeping it inside, because they didn't feel confident about their smile or talking with people, looking at people, and to see that change is really remarkable," said Dr. Bob Villwock of Bellevue Family Dentistry.

Dr. Villwock has provided about $4,000 worth of free services, including new dentures, to Hass. 

"They've put their lives on the line for us. The least we can do is let them have a mouth where they can eat, speak and feel confident," he said. "I think it's the best paycheck I ever get."   

Hass' mother-in-law nominated her for the program. After nearly a year, the former soldier's extensive dental work is almost complete.

"It's been awesome. I don't have to be embarrassed anymore. You know, people compliment me on my smile now."
Hass is grateful for the boost to her self esteem and the show of appreciation for her service.
Click here for more information on the Salute to Smiles program.