By Spc. Michael Adams, 3rd ID Public AffairsMarch 2, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. On March 3, 1911, the United States Army commissioned its first officer to take care of Soldiers' teeth. Prior to this date, private contractors had been hired to provide dental work for troops.
This year, United States Army Dental Activity Command celebrates it's 100th year in existence.
Colonel Mark McDoanld, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield DENTAC commander, wanted to celebrate the anniversary by informing Soldiers of what is available for them and their Family Members and telling of ways troops can take care of their teeth.
"As all of dentistry has advanced to become modern and relatively painless, the Army Dental Corps has kept up with that," he said. "We have great facilities at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. They are very modern facilities, technologically advanced. We track patient scheduling and appointments by computer system, we track our daily workload, how we treat Soldiers, and what procedures we perform on Soldiers. We use that to track our dental readiness for the installation and throughout the world."
If a Soldier is not in proper dental health, they may not be able to deploy, Col. McDonald added. Soldiers in need of a dental operation that could lead to a dental emergency, or has no dental records, will not be able to deploy.
In order to properly take care of Soldier's teeth, Stewart-Hunter DENTAC offers exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges, root-canal treatment, oral surgery and other treatments to keep Soldiers in the fight.
Colonel McDonald added that Soldiers who have deployed should take dental health seriously when they return, as their dental health more than likely deteriorated in an environment with limited dental care.
But DENTAC is starting to be more pro-active to make sure Soldiers keep their teeth clean to keep Soldier's dental health above the standard.
The DENTAC is sponsoring a campaign to make sure Soldiers take preventative steps to make sure teeth remain healthy.
"Our focus is on maintaining the dental health, form, function and aesthetics for Soldiers," said Col. McDonald. "We are here to control disease, and try to maintain as many teeth as we can for Soldiers."
To make sure Soldiers are aware of the importance of clean teeth, DENTAC has started the High Carries Risk Program, where hygienists identify Soldiers who are more susceptible to having tooth decay. Then, instead of removing a tooth that causes a problem for the Soldier, the dentist will treat the disease within the tooth and prevent future cavities and decay.
The new program doesn't just deal with treatment.
Sergeant First Class James Motes, the noncommissioned officer in-charge of Dental Clinic One, discussed some of the other parts of the program.
"The program helps the Soldiers identify snacks, foods, gums that are either sugar-free or have a good type of sugar," he said. "The less sugar you have in your diet, the less likely you are to have cavities. The program also helps Soldiers with their hygiene instruction. We have folks that are set up to talk with them and discuss caring for themselves."
Colonel McDonald added he and the DENTAC staff at Stewart love their mission and are happy to be helping Soldiers.
"We feel we're a force multiplier, with all of the multiple deployments," he said. "And I know that my staff truly think it's an honor and a privilege to treat Soldiers. They take it very seriously and they're very patriotic group of Americans who look at this as their contribution to the effort."
Soldiers receive this care, but their dependents receive slightly different care.
While Family Members do not receive dental treatment from DENTAC, they can receive dental insurance through Tricare. Family Members will have to pay part of the premium and the government will pay the other part. To learn more about the program, visit www.tricaredentalprogram.com.
Currently, there are two dental clinics on Stewart and one on Hunter. On Stewart, Dental Clinic One's phone number is 912-767-8511. Dental Clinic Four's phone number is 912-767-2358/0158. At Hunter, Dental Clinic Four's phone number is 913-315-5417/6590. Sick call hours at all clinics begin at 7:30 a.m.
For more information on DENTAC, feel free to call any of the clinics.