LUBBOCK, Texas — U.S. Army veteran Nellie Hopson, 68, of Slaton, received the opportunity of a lifetime last fall- the chance to smile with confidence. Nellie found out she was the final recipient of Lubbock’s fifth annual Smiles For Soldiers program with Hill & Ioppolo Oral and Dental Implant Surgery.

“Smiles For Soldiers… the intent was to be able to provide folks the type of care they need after they are separated from the military,” Dr. Robert Ioppolo told KLBK News Tuesday. “I was an active-duty dentist for years, so I know the type of care provided while you’re in the military is top-notch, but when you get out…”

Hopson said, “We don’t get anything after we’re out of the military, and my teeth were really bad.”

Last November, Hopson, who is now a contract LPN and COVID vaccine nurse, began her journey to a new smile. She had extensive tooth loss and wrote in her application that her smile shows confidence to her patients, and she believes that having a new smile will not only help show her confidence to others but give her more confidence in herself.

Hill and Ioppolo announced the recipient of the 2021 Smiles For Soldiers program on Veteran’s Day, and Hopson said she was thrilled to hear they chose her.

“It’s always difficult because there are a lot of people that are deserving [and] a lot of people that need it. We’re looking at medical history, dental history, the fact that she needed the procedure and wanted the procedure,” Dr. Ioppolo explained.

When he invited her to the office to announce the surprise, “She came in the door, and all my staff were like, ‘I like her. I really like her.'”

Having a new smile means Hopson can make a difference in the lives of those with whom she interacts.

“In my line of work, I do education, and I think it will be a lot easier now for people to believe me if they see my face. They’ll know that I know what I’m talking about,” Hopson shared.

Dr. Ioppolo added, “You’re a nurse. You’re a subject matter expert. You’re smiling, you’re happy, and you’re confident in what you’re saying. That definitely enhances your message and your credibility.”

A week after the procedure, Hopson said she hasn’t stopped smiling and is healing without any pain or complications. Dr. Ioppolo said she has four months of follow-up visits before her Full-Arch Restoration is complete.