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Veteran receives new smile after lifetime of service

April 26, 2019

By David Burger

Veteran Billy Joyner and Dr. Jernigan
Together: Veteran Billy Joyner, left, shows off his new smile with his dentist, Dr. John “Joc” Jernigan, at the dentist’s practice in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Rocky Mount, N.C. — Billy Joyner, 79, was in the U.S. Army and National Guard in the early 1960s, but his service didn’t end there.

Since then, Mr. Joyner has served his community in too many ways to count.

He was a volunteer firefighter for 37 years.

He coached Little League baseball for a dozen years.

He has traveled with his church — the same church he was baptized in — on humanitarian missions to Costa Rica, the Bahamas and Nicaragua.

On top of driving other elderly adults around the region to their doctor appointments, he is in the midst of building handicapped ramps where needed throughout his North Carolina town.

One thing the retired butcher and carpenter didn’t do was look after his teeth. He has survived melanoma that occurred near his ear, but radiation therapy causes major teeth decay, he said. But he was on a fixed income, not being able to afford dental care.

Mr. Joyner finally relented to seek help when he found himself having chewing problems — especially when trying to enjoy his favorite meal of pork chops. He habitually, incessantly put his hands in front of his teeth because he was embarrassed at how they appeared.

In late 2018, dentist John “Joc” Jernigan, of DentureCare and Implant Solutions in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, learned during a consultation about Mr. Joyner’s veteran status and legacy of community service. The member dentist decided to do a full smile transformation using dental implants and removable prostheses, at no charge, for Mr. Joyner.

“I almost fell out of my chair and almost lost all the teeth I had left,” said Mr. Joyner when he received a call from Dr. Jernigan that he wouldn’t charge the veteran. “It was a shock to me and a shock to my wife.”

According to Dr. Jernigan, it was the least he could do for a veteran who had dedicated his life to his community. “This person is so deserving,” said the dentist, whose practice — which he shares with father, Dr. Edward W. Jernigan — focuses exclusively on treating tooth loss using dentures and dental implants.

Multiple trips to get treated by Dr. Jernigan ensued, including extensive surgery, and in February of this year, Mr. Joyner sported a smile that he no longer had to hide. “He had to relearn how to smile,” Dr. Jernigan said. “He figured it out.”

The value of the extensive treatment, Dr. Jernigan said, was about $30,000.

“It’s a special thing,” Dr. Jernigan said. “Seeing Billy go through it made me want to do it again.”