“Being ordinary serves no one,” says Dr. Jay Grossman. From the moment he handed his business card to a homeless veteran 29 years ago, Dr. Grossman and his wife, Dr. Briar Flicker-Grossman, have achieved extraordinary things through their nonprofit Homeless Not Toothless (HNT). In Los Angeles, a city where homelessness affects almost 59,000 individuals, HNT provides free dental services to thousands of homeless persons, foster youth, veterans, and low-income individuals each year. “This organization isn’t about how much you make or where you live,” says Dr. Flicker-Grossman. “It’s about lifting patients’ dignity.”
Since opening its doors in 1992, HNT has provided more than $5 million in pro bono services to 60,000+ adults and children suffering from missing teeth, tooth decay, and other periodontal diseases. Today, the nonprofit has over 1000 dentists and volunteers, and works with more than three dozen dental practices that offer HNT services. “One patient who was recovering from addiction went from being completely toothless to smiling and restarting his contracting business,” says Dr. Flicker-Grossman. “Those are the moments that are most satisfying to us.”
Most HNT patients—many who are recovering addicts—are screened for sobriety and referred to the clinic by partner organizations. Dr. Grossman and Dr. Flicker-Grossman’s mission to empower the homeless by “bringing back one smile at a time” has attracted big-name celebrities as well. HNT’s collaboration with Planet Hope, a nonprofit co-founded by actress and philanthropist Sharon Stone, has resulted in five new dental facilities for foster children ages five to 18. “The number one reason why elementary school children miss school is because of dental-related pain and infections,” says Dr. Grossman. Today, HNT dentists treat over 15,000 children annually.
As their organization approaches its 30th anniversary, Dr. Grossman and Dr. Flicker-Grossman glimpse even bigger endeavors on the horizon. They want to bring HNT to other U.S. cities, a goal they plan to accomplish by raising a $5 million endowment. “We want to make a difference for hundreds of thousands and, eventually, millions of people,” says Dr. Grossman. Though some may think that goal ambitious, this NYU Alumni Changemaker couple simply see it as being ordinary individuals with an extraordinary commitment. “Because, if not you, who?” asks Dr. Grossman. “If not now, when?”