Dr. Steven Markham, a cosmetic dentist and the owner of Yucaipa Dental and Orthodontics in Yucaipa, California, has always loved giving back. In fact, he says, “Honestly, I love my work as a dentist, but giving it away is way more fun than being paid for it, and anyone who says otherwise hasn’t experienced it,” he admits with a humble smile.

Markham 1

Dr. Steven Markham, Yucaipa Dental and Orthodontics. Dr. Steven Markham, Yucaipa Dental and Orthodontics.

This past February, he and his staff decided to take on an initiative geared toward helping our United States Veterans. He placed ads in local papers and hung flyers throughout town soliciting nominations for area veterans who deserved a full-smile makeover.


“I was initially going to just pick one for our practice to take on, but after we received the nominations, so many of them were just so touching that I couldn’t narrow it down. Finally, we selected three to come in for interviews to tell us about their life, and after talking to each one, I walked out thinking, ‘How can I say no?! How could I NOT help this person?!” Each of their stories, their hardships, and their humanity just blew me away—but what shocked me even more was the lack of care they’d received from the system since they’d come home from their tours and service.” Dr. Markham remembers, shaking his head. “They’ve been through things most of us could never imagine experiencing in our wildest dreams. Terrible things. Scary things. Talking to so many of them brought me to tears.”


Under the guise of still only choosing one veteran, Dr. Markham and Yucaipa Dental and OrthodonticsYucaipa Dental and Orthodontics invited the three veteran finalists to an event at a local park, complete with catering, a bagpiper playing military tunes, and local community members.

bagpiperA bagpiper played military tunes to commemorate the event.

“It was great to see the look on their faces when we announced all three of their names instead of just one,” Dr. Markham recalls. “Of course, we weren’t going to bring all three of them there and then send two home empty-handed! It made the announcement that much more exciting and emotional than any of us expected.”

Group shot 1Ned*, Dr. Markham, Brian*, and Jace*. (Images used with permission from vets, names are pseudonyms.)

“Ned* is our first vet who served valiantly in Vietnam. He’s been missing several of his teeth for years due to a lack of access to care. Also, because of his severe, untreated PTSD, Ned has experienced difficulty maintaining employment throughout the years,” Dr. Markham relays, adding, “I believe part of this has to do with the shame he feels associated with his smile and teeth.”

Markham and NedDr. Markham and Ned in the operatory, getting started on his smile makeover.

In Ned’s nomination letter, written by his niece, she outlined many of his brave acts and two boots-on-the-ground deployments to Vietnam, where Ned was exposed to Agent Orange and other atrocities. She wrote, “While Ned returned from Vietnam physically, he did not mentally or emotionally (return) for several years. Sadly, he is one of the many veterans who fell through the cracks that many American heroes of Vietnam did at that time. For several years, he could not be found and was homeless, later resurfacing at his sister’s home.”


She later wrote, “Today, Ned works hard, (but) is missing most of his teeth. His hygiene is fairly good, but his lack of teeth leads to difficulty speaking and causes him embarrassment. This loyal, hardworking, loving man deserves to have (a healthy, beautiful smile).”


Of the moving nomination letter written by Ned’s niece, Dr. Markham says that each veteran chosen had an equally moving, courageous, deserving life and story deserving of the smile makeover.

Markham and Ned2

Dr. Markham holding one of the many goodies Ned frequently brings into the office to show his gratitude.

Presently in the middle of Ned’s smile reconstruction process Dr. Markham says, “We’re currently in the thick of Ned’s complete smile reconstruction now, and he’s been so awesome and so incredibly grateful. He often drops into the practice at random with treats for the entire staff to show his gratitude, and we’ve all become really good friends. I’ve had to pull several of his teeth, and then we’ll do implants. His final result are going to be awesome.”


“Our second vet, Brian*, graduated from high school in 1998 and immediately thereafter joined the armed forces, doing communications for the military. He got married, had children, and deployed to South Korea for several months, and then when things really escalated in Iraq around 2003, he was deployed there. From his stories…his time in Iraq was intense,” his parents wrote in the nomination.

Markham and Brian

Dr. Markham and Brian at the beginning of Brian’s smile makeover journey.

In his nomination letter, Brian’s parent wrote, “I remember (Brian) calling us from his barracks as you could hear the pinging from bullets hitting the metal roofs. During these months…he received many injuries to his back, etc. which to this day he still suffers from. He suffers from depression from some of the life or death decisions which had to be made while on patrol. …Brian was honorably medically discharged after nine years of service to this country. To this day, his pride in his sons and his "Service to his Country" are his heart and soul.

Brian in UniformBrian in uniform.

Brian and Soldiers

Brian and his fellow soldiers in Iraq circa 2003.

Dr. Markham adds, “Brian’s PTSD is very severe, but somehow, he keeps a sense of humor and comes in, cracking us all up. Most of his teeth need a lot of ortho, esthetic, and whitening work. On the bottom, he only has about five teeth left, so we’re going to pull everything there and do full implants.” He adds, “Like with Ned, I’m excited to see Brian’s final results. There isn’t a more deserving person I can think of than him or Ned or our third vet, Jace, to receive a new smile and fresh start.”


Dr. Markham then introduced the third veteran his Yucaipa Dental and Orthodontics team chose for a full smile makeover. Yucaipa Dental and Orthodontics team chose for a full smile makeover.


“Our third vet’s name is Jace*, and something about him endeared me right away to him because he reminds me of one of my childhood friends,” Dr. Markham smiles. “We’ve already done a root canal and crown, have had to pull a couple of teeth, and now we’re in the process of doing ortho. When that’s done, we’ll place some implants. Jace in his mid-thirties and spent around five years in the armed forces. He’s one of those guys who puts himself last. He’s been taking his kids to the dentist for years and making sure his wife gets what she needs, but has neglected his own dental health and needs in the process. It was high time he received a little attention and care, and we’re so honored to be able to do that.”

Jace 1

Jace, the third military vet chosen to receive a smile makeover at Yucaipa Dental & Orthodontics.Yucaipa Dental & Orthodontics.

Dr. Markham remarks, “Having worked as a dentist for a very long time, I’ve seen how these types of smile makeovers change lives. It helps with their confidence and mental health. They feel like a million bucks afterward, and they deserve a huge debt of gratitude from us for their sacrifices and for all they’ve given up to keep us safe and to preserve our freedoms. After a smile makeover, people often go on to find higher paying jobs with their new smiles and confidence, because they recognize their own potential and value that really was there all along. It’s so fulfilling to be a part of that.”

Markham and Jace with team

Jace with Dr. Markham’s team.

After finishing these three veteran’s smile makeovers, Dr. Steven Markham doesn’t plan on stopping. He says, “I have big plans for the future for how I can expand this humanitarian operation and be able to give even more veterans easier access to dental care at a faster rate, so stayed tuned…”

Markham and Staff

Dr. Steven Markham and his staff at Yucaipa Dental and Orthodontics.Dr. Steven Markham and his staff at Yucaipa Dental and Orthodontics.

Swing back by the Ultradent blog within the coming months for an update on the final smiles of Dr. Markham’s three current veteran patients, Ned, Brian, and Jace. We can’t wait to show you their sparkling results!


In the meantime, Happy Veteran’s Day to all of our brave, selfless, incredible veterans throughout the country who have given their all to defend our liberties that we hold so dear. There’s truly not a more noble pursuit! We at Ultradent thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.  


*Asterisks indicate pseudonyms.