- An article was published on the National Guard website that reported dental disease or lack of a recent dental examination kept 55% of National Guard troops from being deployed. This huge number of non-deployable troops was confirmed by COL Daniel Savitske, Chief Dental Officer of the Army National Guard in an interview with Dr. Bicuspid.com that appeared on the Internet on June 8, 2008.
- The Seattle Times reported in an article published May 21, 2005 that 30 percent of the 4,500 National Guardsmen of the 81st Brigade Combat Team called to active duty for deployment to Iraq in March of 2004 were not deployable because of severe dental problems. It required a Herculean effort to ready the Guardsmen to deploy on time. Only 12 men were ultimately left behind.
- On December 15, 2003, The Boston Globe reported that, “One military study of Army Reserve soldiers activated after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, found that about 25 percent (of the troops) had dental problems that prevented their deployment.”
In light of these staggering figures it is incumbent upon all CANG, USAR, and CSMR unit commanders to implement training of their soldiers as to their need to take as good care of the teeth as well as they take care of their weapons, vehicles and personal equipment. All active National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers are required to have periodic dental examinations, panographic dental radiographs, and to have the identified significant dental problems treated. It is every soldier’s duty and obligation to maintain his or her physical, medical, dental and mental health and have treated any conditions that would preclude readiness in the event of a deployment order.
The military classifies dental problems into three categories. Category 1 is the absence of any need for dental treatment. Category 2 is the identification of dental problems that will not likely become a dental emergency within 12 months. Category 3 is when there are dental problems that will likely become an emergency within 12 months. Category 3 soldiers cannot be deployed until they are treated and become either Category 1 or 2. The statistics are that 20 percent of non-battle injuries (NBI) are dental problems during active duty which hampers unit effectiveness.
The burden rests on each individual soldier whether CANG, USAR, or CSMR to maintain his or her individual dental readiness. The CSMR in its support mission is available to provide “Dental Basic Training” to all units upon request.
MAJ Robert B. Gerber, (DDS)
Clinical Associate Professor,
Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC
Regional Support Command (South) CSMR
This is the first of a series of articles about military dental issues. Troop training is available on dental health and can be scheduled through the Medical Section, Regional Support Command (South) CSMR.