Despite giving their service to our country, only 8% of Veterans are eligible for dental care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. To most civilians, this is quite an eye-opener. To our retired servicemembers, this is their reality as most Veterans don’t fit the narrow scope of qualifications to be seen for oral health concerns. To retired U.S. Navy commander and former Dental Corp officer, Dr. George Yellich, this was a call to action.
In 2018, the California-based oral and maxillofacial surgeon founded Dentistry4Vets. Serving the tri-counties of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz, Dr. Yellich founded this organization with the mission of providing quality dental care to our brave servicemembers.
Dentistry4Vets makes five promises to their niche patient community:
With his wife Patricia at his side, Dr. Yellich and fellow dental specialists operate Dentistry4Vets in a community with a Veteran population of 33,000. Under VA guidelines, most of these Veterans don’t qualify for dental care benefits as eligibility includes the following stipulations: the individual must have been a POW, fully disabled or have sustained dental injuries while in service. Given these strict qualifications, it’s no surprise that Veterans face significant oral health disparities and why the work being done by the Yellich’s is so important. But the journey that brought them to Dentistry4Vets was not one without challenges.
Having suffered his own health complications and enduring a serious operation that left him bedbound for several weeks, Dr. Yellich was forced to take a break from his active lifestyle. He took this time to reflect on the lived experience of grappling with physical disability and was moved to be of service to those in need. It was his wife Patricia that motivated the good doctor to use his skills to help his community and consequentially, she became a fellow co-founder of Dentistry4Vets, of which she is now the Secretary to the Board.
Since January of 2021, Dentistry4Vets has treated more than 300 patients. Their team is making smiles, one Veteran at a time. Dentistry4Vets patient and retired servicemember, Ken Kramer, reflects on his experience:
“I served in the U.S. Army as a Private First Class during the years 1961 to 1967. I served on Fort Dix, Fort Ord and U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg in Bamberg, Germany. Dentistry4Vets has been such a blessing to find. It is because of them that I will be able to smile again.”
Earlier this year, Dentistry4Vets opened a clinic complete with two treatment rooms, a lab, a sterilization center and waiting area. This designated space, has enabled Dr. Yellich’s team to provide over a quarter million dollars’ worth of dental care to Veterans just this year.
To Dr. Yellich and to the patients of Dentistry4Vets – we salute you and your service!
Giving thanks isn’t the only way to show your appreciation for our Veterans. To ensure that retired servicemembers like Ken get the care they need, consider supporting Dentistry4Vets by making a donation today. If you’re an experienced dental specialist in the Central Coast area, consider becoming a volunteer.