NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
DALLAS –– Veteran Matthew Blits can't forget his legacy from Iraq.
"There's been days where I'm curled up in a ball crying because it hurts so bad," Blits says.
It's his teeth. Since he left the Army, he's lost most of his top teeth, and many of his bottom teeth need critical care. His marriage has suffered. He can't even eat a carrot.
Since Adrian Boyce fought in the Battle of Fallujah, he's been plagued by dental pain that can rule his life.
"It can effect the way you operate on a daily basis," Boyce says.
The causes for veteran dental problems can vary, from spotty oral hygiene in combat to dry mouth –– known as xerostomia, it can exacerbate the erosion of tooth enamel –– to over-consumption of sugary drinks.
Regardless of the cause, many veterans share the same problematic effect: Unless a vet is 100 percent disabled, the VA does not pay for dental care, even if the problems started while in the military. Blits, Boyce and Schubert are not 100 percent disabled.
But they've found help through an organization called Rebuilding America's Warriors, or RAW.
RAW was originally founded to provide plastic surgery to badly disfigured vets who were wounded after 9/11. It expanded its mission after discovering so many vets were suffering from dental damage.
First, RAW hooked up with Dallas dentist Richard Beadle, who helped repair a Weatherford vet's mouth.
Now Plano dentist Dr. David Wilhite and his wife Nancy are contributing even more. They're fixing Blits, Boyce and Schubert up with dental implants and dentures. When Nancy met Adrian Boyce, she said there was no choice.
"He melted my heart," she said.
Dr. George Nail of Carollton is also pitching in.
Matthew Blits, for example, will need many extractions ,implants and special dentures anchored by the implants.
"I look to our returning servicemen to help them out, and to compensate them for their contribution to our society," Dr. Wilhite says.