U.S. Army veteran Leonard Laquindanum received a new $50,000 smile makeover through the annual Smiles for Veterans program that honors local veterans from the region.
Laquindanum suffered most of his life from missing teeth. And a few specialized dentists in the region helped him gain his smile back. Laquindanum served as a mechanic technician assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division.
On March 23, oral surgeons Dr. Paul Koshgerian and Dr. Jonathan Shelton of The Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Specialists of San Diego, whose practice between the College area and Lake Murray area of East County performed the surgery.
Shelton said that he and Koshgerian decided they wanted to start a program about three years ago to allow them to give back to their community.
“We decided to go with the Smile Again Program,” he said. “Essentially, there are a lot of people in our community and all over our great country that have a lot of dental need that causes them issues with social interaction, pain and suffering, and even their overall health. We have and hold the solution to that because of our training, however, not everybody can afford to be able to do this sort of thing.”
Shelton said they are faced with this every day in their office with patients and said they are sensitive knowing that not everyone can afford to do many of these procedures. He said they wanted to find a way to come together and help someone with severe dental issues, and this is the first year that they decided to choose veterans.
“It was great to support those who sacrifice every day for our country and to give them a few hours of our time to help them out,” he said. “We interviewed several veterans who were in need. Ultimately it comes down to getting to know the people and prayer. Dr. Koshgerian and I both felt that Leonard was our guy this year. He is such an outstanding veteran, a great person, and it could not have been extended to a better person. We are really happy to be able to help him out.”
Koshgerian said they practice together, and trained together in Kentucky, and with both of their love for California, decided to settle their practice in San Diego. “It was not a hard choice,” he said.
Koshgerian said Laquindanum is a Filipino-American who was in the Marine Corps and fought for our country, living in the San Diego region raising his family.
“He has dedicated a lot of time to his children and his teeth have gotten lost in priority,” he said. “He is a very proud Filipino-American. He is very proud of his citizenship and proud of his veteran status. He was extremely appreciative of us putting the program together first off, even making comments that even if not selected, he was proud to be involved. He was thankful for us giving veterans the opportunity to get treated. That kind of speaks to what kind of person Leonard is.”
Koshgerian said that Laquindanum is “beside himself” in being selected, that his family is excited.
“This means so much not only to him, but to them, seeing him happy and smiling. And to be able to live the life that he wants to live.,” he said. “And, to have a little reward come back to him for all the work that he has done, not only for his family, but the city of San Diego, and our country. He is really thrilled.”
Laquindanum said it was wonderful to be able to be part of this program.
“It was good to get this surgery done and they have helped me a lot,” he said. “I have some pain, but it is worth it for everything that they are doing for me. I really need to get this done. I am looking forward to getting the full dentures put in so that I can bite on an apple again. It has been a long time. It has been a struggle for me.”
Prosthodontist Dr. Edmund W. Jay of San Diego said having the opportunity to help people like Laquindanum, retired veterans who continues to serve our community and are very dedicated to their family, that it is nice to be part of that program. He saw Laquindanum on April 5, to work on his new set of teeth.
“The Veterans for Smiles program is really a good avenue for us to give back as dentists and surgeons,” he said. “I was invited by Dr. Koshgerian and Dr. Shelton to provide prosthetic support. That was the restorative process. They placed the foundation with the implants, and I have the opportunity to replace the prosthetic aspect.”
Jay said though Laquindanum is only wearing a temporary prosthetic now until his permanent prosthetic is finished, and the implant surgery is completely healed, that he already has a confident smile and is happily showing it off to everyone.
The Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Specialists of San Diego’s homepage: www.sandiegooralsurgery.com
Smiles For Veterans’ page: www.sandiegooralsurgery.com/veterans