Indy Army veteran gets new smile

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After serving his country for years, one Indianapolis veteran now just wants a job.

Harry Kennedy says for the last 10 years, it’s been hard for him to get and keep jobs because of his bad teeth. However, one set of doctors is helping to change that.

Since the 41-year-old veteran returned home from his service in the Army, he says he’s lost some jobs because he wasn’t able to smile.

Kennedy said he was a combat soldier in the Army, so he felt like he didn’t have skills that transferred well into civilian life. After spending four years in the military, he came back home and waited tables. It was a job that didn’t provide dental care and he couldn’t afford it.

“Parts of teeth would chip away this day,” said Kennedy. “Or I’d bite into something wrong and it would split and you really can’t afford to go and get, so you just deal with it.”

But years of dealing with it, left him in serious trouble.

Dr. Afaq Kheiri of Aspen Dental did the work in Kennedy’s mouth.

“(He had an) Infection, a lot of broken out teeth, a lot of pain,” said Dr. Kheiri.

He says what he saw in Kennedy’s mouth was typical of what you find when someone doesn’t have access to dental care.

“It kept me weak,” said Kennedy. “Tired all the time because you know you can’t just eat raw vegetables. It was so bad, I was really embarrassed.”

And more than being embarrassed, Dr.Kheiri says, if Kennedy hadn’t come in soon, his situation could have become dangerous.

“The mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria and any infection there, can spread and can cause issues elsewhere,” said Dr. Kheiri.

But today, Kennedy is on his way to a better smile, thanks to Aspen Dental and their mouth mobile, which travels around the country and offers free dental work for people who can’t afford it.

Their spokesperson is Danica Patrick and the day Kennedy met her, he was all smiles.

On Thursday, Kennedy was fitted for his dentures, and found out he was getting all his dental work for free. It would have cost about $2,300.

“He took away so much of my pain, and gave me a lot of my confidence that I’ve been missing for so long, and it took him 45 minutes to do it,” said Kennedy.

He is hoping to find a job in a restaurant and to eventually get married and have a full life.

Kennedy says he’s already trying to figure out how he can possibly pay this forward.

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