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Homeless vets connected with work, dental care through program funded by the Delta Dental Foundation 

Indianapolis, Indiana— Chiclets.
That’s what Forrest Hines, 48, said his bad set of false teeth looked like—pieces of shiny peppermint gum.

After getting his front teeth replaced as a young man in the National Guard, Hines was left with teeth that made him feel self-conscious, and deterred him from social interactions. He didn’t feel the joy he once had.
Upon leaving the service, Hines couldn’t afford dental care, nor did he have a home or family to fall back on, so he found comfort at Wheeler Mission Ministries in Indianapolis, a social services organization, which provides assistance to the homeless, poor and needy.

It was through a connection at Wheeler House that Hines was introduced to a dental student from Indiana University’s School of Dentistry. She noticed he had missing teeth and suggested he could participate in Veterans’ Employability: The Dental Connection program.
Through a $75,000 grant from the Delta Dental Foundation funding the program, Hines, like many other veterans was able to find his smile again.
He went through job training and then received a new set of teeth and now receives regular cleanings.
Like Hines, homeless veterans ages 60 and younger, who are missing front teeth and have an honorable discharge from the military, can commit to undergo job training and become eligible for the program.
The program is a collaboration between Indiana University and Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation which houses 200 homeless veterans in Indianapolis and provides services to hundreds of other low income veterans.

"Veterans Employability: The Dental Connection matches dental students and faculty with unemployed homeless veterans in Indianapolis to overcome a barrier that often stands in the way of them getting a job – their teeth,” said Dr. Karen Yoder, professor of Preventive and Community Dentistry and director of Community Engagement and Health Policy at the IU School of Dentistry. "Having teeth and job training can have a huge impact on enabling a person to have a productive, self-sufficient, meaningful life. We’re thankful to Delta Dental Foundation for making this possible."

The program has been ongoing since 2013 and to date, the Delta Dental Foundation has provided 47 veterans with comprehensive dental services and job training.  
“It’s hard to find work and pay the bills when you have missing teeth and poor oral health. In fact, adults miss 164 million hours of work each year because of dental issues,” said Teri Battaglieri, Delta Dental Foundation director. “We are proud to fund this program which provides homeless veterans with access to high quality dental care so they can be successful in their lives and careers.”
First and second year dental students help locate appropriate candidates and serve as patient navigators to work with case managers, while third and fourth year students from IU provide direct dental services to the veterans.
Now with aspirations to work full time with the Veterans Administration and become reacquainted with his family, Hines said he has the confidence he lacked before.
“(I want to do) all I can do to help those who need it, since I’ve been helped,” Hines said.
About Delta Dental Foundation
The Delta Dental Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization established in 1980, which serves as the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina. The Foundation’s goals are to support education and research for the advancement of dental science and to promote the oral health of the public through education and service activities, particularly for those with special needs. For more information, visit www.deltadentalincom.