By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Regional Health Command Europe)June 8, 2017
Dental Health Command Europe is expanding its capabilities for expeditionary dental care in support of ongoing missions in Eastern Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve.
To ensure rotational forces stay up-to-date with their dental readiness, DHCE established a dental expeditionary team to bring dental resources to the field.
The regionally aligned forces in Eastern Europe have limited dental assets, according to Staff Sgt. Daniel Cleveland, DHCE Operations.
"The dental assets they have are being used for emergency cases," he said. "This does not allow them much time to be able to keep up with all of the Soldiers' dental readiness exams -- this is why DHCE, who doesn't typically do this, is helping -- to ensure Soldiers stay medically ready."
The goal of the DET is to service and take care of the war fighters who need dental exams and treatment while they support Atlantic Resolve.
"The addition of portable field dental equipment will provide essential dental care to operational forces throughout Europe in support of readiness for USAREUR and other U.S. Forces in austere environments," said Col. Stephen Tanner, DHCE Commander.
The DET is made up of three two-person teams which include a dentist and a dental technician, and will be called upon on a rotational basis.
Recently, a team led by Capt. Melissa McGrier, a general dentist at the Weisbaden Dental Clinic, traveled for two weeks to three different locations to conduct dental readiness exams.
McGrier said she and Staff Sgt. John Harper, Kleber Dental Clinic noncommissioned officer in charge, provided exams for U.S. Soldiers in Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania.
"At each location we did dental readiness exams, including x-rays," McGrier said. "We brought a portable x-ray machine with us so that we could classify who has immediate needs -- who needs to be treated on the economy or transported to the Grafenwoher Dental Clinic to get treatment and who could wait until they got home and wouldn't have any pain."
McGrier and Harper saw 200 servicemembers over their two-week trip which included 150 Soldiers and 50 Marines.
"I think we saw about 90-95 percent of the troops, the only ones we didn't get to see were the ones who were away on a mission," McGrier said.
McGrier and Harper were the first DHCE team to take on a dental expeditionary mission.
"It was a very successful trip," McGrier said. "Of course, being that we were the first team to go out we encountered a few challenges -- but nothing we couldn't work through. When we returned, I also provided some suggestions for additional equipment that the next team should take so that if there are emergent cases they can be treated."
Leading up to their mission, McGrier and Harper put together a packing list of all of the supplies they thought they would need and also packed tools for a few cases they knew they would see.
"Col. Tanner went for a pre-visit and he was told about a few cases - -such as a crown that came off and needed to be re-cemented," MCGrier said. "So I was able to be prepared for that and brought what I needed to help this Soldier."
McGrier said she referred about 10 patients to be seen on the economy because they had some bigger things going on and that dental readiness is important because you never know when you may have a problem.
"Dental is one of those things where you think you are good to go until one day you wake up with a massive toothache," McGrier said. "It's important for our Soldiers to know they can go away for an extended period and not have to worry about that happening."
McGrier said she volunteered to be a part of the DTE as way to do something different outside of the clinic and a way to keep the bigger picture in focus.
"This gives me more of an appreciation of what our Soldiers do and it humbles me a bit more -- when you work in a clinic on a day-to-day basis you can get tunnel vision and forget the bigger picture," McGrier said.
For more information on DHCE, visit http://www.dhc-europe.amedd.army.mil.