FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Sept. 24, 2020) -- A team of 24 active-duty and three civilian dentists and their support staffs at four dental clinics meet the dental health and readiness requirements of the active-duty service members of Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence.The majority of those military dentists joined the Army thanks to the robust efforts of the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky.Maj. Brandon Jones, the Army Dental Corps recruiting integration officer, leads that effort.“I’m proud every day I get to put on the uniform. What I get to do because I wear that uniform is even better,” he said.Dental applicants fall in an age range from the mid-20s to 42, said Jones, who added waivers may be granted for older individuals if they present with exceptional qualifications, or specialties of interest.Jones said the majority of students go through the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HSPS) and join the active-duty dental corps.“It is an unparalleled, amazing opportunity for pre-dental students,” he said.The scholarship covers tuition, books, fees, and all associated costs for an individual to go to dental school.“Also, the Army will provide a monthly stipend of nearly $2,400. Plus, for those who receive a four-year scholarship, they will receive a $20,000 sign-on bonus,” he said.That’s a lot of cash to consider, especially since the cost of school becomes a major obstacle for many.Jones listed several major universities with costs ranging from $300,000 to $500,000 for the four-year dental degree. And that doesn’t include the student loan rate of which he said 4-7 percent is common.“The Army scholarship, in effect, is valued over $400,000 by the time dental school is finished and they go on active duty,” said Jones.While these figures may impress the general public, Jones said he doesn’t exert much effort selling the HPSP or the financial gains that come with Army service. The earning potential in the private sector is plenty of motivation. Instead, the greater incentives to becoming part of the Army Dental Corps are professional advancement and mentorship.“Our residency programs we have are second to none,” he said.This begins with the Advanced Education in General Dentistry 12-Month (AEGD-1) program that every HPSP recipient has to apply for, but not everyone is selected. “If you get selected for that, you certainly shouldn’t turn it down,” he said.Imagine drinking from a fire hydrant because that’s what Jones likens dental school learning to. “You get all this information thrown at you and you stick you head in there and take only what’s absolutely necessary and the rest just flows by,” he said.Regardless of the dental school they attended or how well they did in school, Jones said every graduate comes out a safe beginner.For those who go on and complete an AEGD-1 program, Jones said it provides the equivalent of five years experience compared to peers who just finished dental school.The AEGD-1 also exposes the new dentists to board certified experts in their areas of concentration who instruct the classes but also become invaluable mentors to newly arrived dentists.“For me, the greatest reason to joining the military is you’re in an environment where you’re not alone. Generally speaking, you’re in a larger clinic with other seasoned providers and specialists around you. If you come across a situation where you don’t know what to do, or you’d like some reinforcement of what you’re about to do you have someone who can mentor or approve of what you are doing,” said Jones.Along with shadowing an experienced co-worker, new dentists can apply for nearly all dental residency programs the Army offers, said Jones. “Army dentists who attend residency programs will be the highest paid residents in the country because your pay doesn’t stop if you decide to go to residency training.”In addition to the majority who join the Army following dental school graduation, Jones said practicing dentists may also join provided they are U.S. citizens who have an unrestricted dental license and a degree from an accredited dental school in the United States, District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico. They would join via the direct accessions program.Another option for those who completed dental school and are about to start a specialty program, is to make use of the Army Financial Assistance Program. It provides a monthly stipend for those students plus a grant while in that specialty program. After finishing they would join the active-duty dental corps.A third way is for those students working through their undergraduate degree in the ROTC. The option is called education delay and enables new second lieutenants to delay their active duty service commitment and go to dental school. He said they can pay for dental school on their own or apply for the HPSP scholarship. Doing so they would be obligated for the HPSP duty requirement in addition to whatever service time incurred as part of the ROTC. He added ROTC also looks good on the HPSP application.For more information about dental careers, visit a local Army recruiter or go online to GoArmy.com/.