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Dental Patients and clinic update

March 19, 2010 | Lieutenant Colonel Kendall Mower

As an Army dentist you will see a lot of Soldiers who haven't had great access to dental care in the past. This may have been due to finances, education about oral hygiene, laziness - or a combination of any or all of the above. Regardless of where you are assigned, you will have the opportunity to treat these Soldiers. At basic training and AIT basis you will see them in much greater numbers, but even at the non training bases you will see Soldiers like this when they are mobilized from the Guard/Reserve, or when they graduate and come to your location after training.

During training we prioritize dental care, and take care of those issues which have the potential of causing pain within the next 12 months. Any other dental care that is not of an urgent nature will be postponed until they get to their first duty station. This is not due to laziness, but a combination of how much time new recruits can miss from their training, and the amount of demand that the dental clinic can handle.

I think one of the qualities that I have admired in other dentists that I have tried to emulate is the ability to educate patients. Taking the time to educate them about what is occurring, and what needs to be done to change it. I think it is easy to get complacent, especially when you see the same thing so frequently. One of the things I love to hear is, "You are the first dentist to ever tell me that." Now whether I was the first one to tell them, or the first one that paid attention to ...

 

X-ray from a new Soldier in training that I saw yesterday - cavities on nearly every back tooth (red arrows). She has had very little dental work done in the past. She did have her wisdom teeth out 10 months ago (green arrows) - notice the bone is still filling in.

 

This was an E-7 (Sergeant First Class) I also saw yesterday that fell into both the "lazy and uneducated" categories. He has been in the Army 15+ yrs, but his mouth is not well taken care of. We had a heart to heart about flossing, and I showed him the x-rays with all the calculus (hardened plaque - red arrows). I told him how he had gum disease and it was going to get worse unless he did something about it. Do I think he'll really change...some do some don't. Also because of his poor oral hygiene he had 3 large cavities that need immediate action (yellow arrows - 3rd is on a front tooth so you don't see it).
 

In the clinic yesterday we did: 7 fillings on 5 patients, 1 extraction, smoothed down 1 filling, and delivered some temporary partial dentures.


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