GARMISCH, Germany – More than 120 military dental practitioners, support staff and guest speakers from across the European theater convened in Garmisch Oct. 25-29 to promote dental readiness and obtain continuing medical education credits.
The 63rd Annual U.S. Army Dental Corps European Training Conference, hosted by Dental Health Command Europe, consisted of dental professionals and clinical staff from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force as well as representatives from the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands. The annual dental training program is open to all Department of Defense dentists, NATO partner dentists and other affiliated dental providers.
During his opening remarks, Col. Manuel Pozo-Alonso, commander of Dental Health Command Europe and host for the annual training conference, said, “It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you back to Garmisch after a lengthy hiatus due to the global COVID pandemic. The last 20 months have been extremely challenging, but you all did a fantastic job at maintaining our readiness, and the dental readiness of our Soldiers, under extremely challenging circumstances. I think it is safe to say that COVID has changed the way we practice dentistry now and into the foreseeable future.”
When describing the objectives of the training symposium, Pozo-Alonso added, "This year’s training event is a baby step back to normalcy. It serves a multitude of purposes to include; continuing education for our dental providers, readiness of the dental force, fostering relationships and building esprit-de-corps.
FOCUS ON DENTAL READINESS AND ORAL HEALTH
Dental readiness was one of the key areas of the dental symposium. As part of the Army's focus on Soldier readiness, the Army dental community is constantly looking for ways to reduce Soldier down time so they can spend more time preparing for their wartime mission. A critical component of the readiness mission is maintaining good dental health.
“The limited interaction that Soldiers have with their dental provider is not enough to achieve and maintain good oral hygiene,” said Pozo-Alonso. “Daily brushing, flossing, avoiding a high sugar/acidic diet and staying away from tobacco products is the recipe for success.”
According to Army dental officials, it is the individual Soldier who has the most control over their dental health and readiness.
“Soldiers should take full advantage of their access to dental care by scheduling their annual exams and routine cleaning,” added Pozo-Alonso. “We highly recommend that Soldiers prioritize their dental treatment for not only unit readiness, but to improve their overall health and wellbeing.”
According to Army dental officials, the dental wellness and readiness rates in U.S. Army Europe are among the highest in the U.S. Army. In addition, Dental Health Command Europe was among the first of regional dental commands in the U.S. Army Medical Command to receive Army Safety Health Management System Star certifications for all of its clinics.
A WIDE VARIETY OF TOPICS
The five-day multinational and multi-service dental training event consisted of presentations, guest speakers, and several hands-on demonstrations covering a variety of topics.
The hands-on demonstrations were given by subject matter experts on several areas to include, but not limited to; surgical prosthodontics, CAD/CAM technology, management of maxillofacial trauma and endodontics for the general dentist.
One of those hands-on demonstrations, endodontics for the general dentist, was given by Maj. (Dr.) Paul Goforth, chief of endodontics for the Grafenwoehr Army Dental Clinic. While endodontics is a specialized field, Goforth suggested that all Army general dentists are capable and credentialed to perform certain core endodontic procedures.
According to the American Association of Endodontists, endodontists are specialists in saving teeth. They have additional training and use specialized techniques and technologies to perform root canal treatment and diagnosis and care of tooth pain. While all endodontists are dentists, less than three percent of dentists in the U.S. are endodontists.
“The ability to diagnose, manage, and treat tooth related pain and infection is a critical requirement of our profession,” said Goforth. “There are, however, more advanced techniques and treatment modalities that necessitate additional specialty training. That said, I always tell those that I mentor that the goal is to become a terrible referrer. In other words, they (dentists) become so competent in their practice that they only refer the most complex cases.”
According to DHCE officials, planning is already underway for the 64th Annual Dental Excellence Symposium in October 2022.