Navy Dental Corps Turns 101 with Pride for the Past and a Foundation for the Future

Story Number: NNS130824-03Release Date: 8/24/2013 10:26:00 AM
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By Douglas H. Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Hospital Bremerton recognized Navy Dental Corps staff members on their 101st anniversary with birthday greetings and well-wishes at Branch Health Clinic Bangor, Aug. 23.

"Our Dental Corps brings a lot to our overall health services and at 101 years old, they barely look a day over 50," noted Capt. Christopher Quarles, Naval Hospital Bremerton commanding officer.

NHB's combined dental services at the main hospital and three branch health clinics saw more than 34,000 patient visits last year.

BHC Bangor handles the oral care of military service members to prevent or remedy diseases, disabilities and injuries of the teeth, jaw and related structures that may interfere with performance of military duty. Emergency treatments to relieve pain, control infection, and/or repair trauma for any person are top priorities. The staff also strives to ensure every military member has an annual dental exam and twice-a-year cleaning to reduce the risk of oral disease.

"This is a great occasion. We not only get to share cake with our staff, but we all know that cake is part of job security for us," quipped Cmdr. Daniel A. Brown, Dental Department head.

Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Teutsch, who celebrated the corps 100th birthday last year at the top of Mt. Fuji, Japan, shared the history of the Dental Corps, tracing the inception back before the World War I to World War II where the ranks swelled to 7,000 dentists to care for all the troops needs, to the Korean War and Vietnam War, where dentists were engaged in providing support during Marine ground and air combat operations. The Dental Corps also helped provide emergency aid during the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983 and during 9/11 when five Dental Corps officers rendered immediate aid to those in need when the Pentagon was hit. Operation Enduring and Operation Iraqi Freedom had Dental Corps members deployed at the tip of the spear.

"Dental readiness and dental health are vitally important for personal and mission readiness," said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Hudson, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/Dental Department head. An article released a few years ago stated that during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the total number of medical evacuations pulled off of duty due to treatment needs had a high percentage that were non-battle related, with a number being dental/oral health related-issues that could have been prevented in the first place.

"The most common complaint was some type of mouth pain," Hudson said. He added that as an oral surgeon, he provides both dental care as well as surgical services, primarily performing wisdom tooth extractions, infection control, biopsies for pathology, reconstructive cases, jaw repositioning and maxillofacial trauma care.

Since their inception on Aug. 22, 1912, the Dental Corps has expanded their involvement in fleet-wide operations and perform vital duties in helping to maintain high operational readiness. Dental Corps personnel are located at 28 medical treatment facilities, with three Marine Battalions and nine Seabee detachments, as well as on 11 aircraft carriers, 34 amphibious ships, USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort and two support ships.

"What we've found in the Navy is to put our Dental Corps assets in specific areas, especially on deployment and supporting the Marines," shared Hudson, who was served tours with 1st Marine Logistical Group and on USS Nimitz (CVN 68). "A dental concern like an infection or abscess can directly impact the mission and team cohesion of everything from a Marine unit to a deployed submarine. A Sailor or Marine with a Class 3 condition, or someone who defers treatment until it becomes an emergency is a detriment. We strive to get everyone on a routine schedule and keep them on that schedule for consistent access to care."

There are four classifications for Dental Readiness. Class 1: Patients not requiring dental treatment or reevaluation within 12 months. Class 2: Patients who have oral conditions that, if not treated or followed up, have the potential but are not expected to result in dental emergencies within 12 months. Class 3: Patients who have oral conditions that if not treated are expected to result in dental emergencies within 12 months. Patients should be placed in Class 3 when there are questions in determining classification between Class 2 and Class 3. Class 4: Patients who require dental examinations. This includes patients who require annual or other required dental examinations and patients whose dental classifications are unknown.
Hudson attests that as part of Navy Medicine, the Dental Corps first priority is to keep Sailors and Marines healthy and fit to serve at home and abroad. They also care for dependents and retirees with oral health needs.

"What we see on a regular basis is that once a person retires from active duty, they tend to let their dental health subside. We constantly fight that neglect," said Hudson.

The BHC Everett Dental Clinic also epitomizes dental readiness. They handled 3,348 examinations last year, along with 2,500 Restorations, 101 units of crown and bridge, 13 root canals, 148 tooth extractions and cared for 7,219 total patients from 23 tenant commands including five home-ported warships at Naval Station Everett.

Along with active duty, Operational Health Support Unit (OHSU) NHB also provides important dental screening requirements for Navy Reservists, handling an average of 70 to 80 screenings per month for Selected Reservists.

"We can average eight to ten dental examinations an hour," said Cmdr. Tim Labrosse, Reserve Liaison Officer and Reserve dentist. "Every Sailor I see is an important asset for us. My goal when they come in for the screening is to assess them for deployment and make sure they won't have emergency dental needs, if and when they deploy. Nothing is more costly than sending a person in and out of an IA assignment for dental care. There's lost manpower hours, logistical expenditures, and travel costs. It all adds up. Before a Sailor departs from here, they will know what category they are concerning their dental readiness."

Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, U.S. Navy Surgeon General and Chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, sent birthday well-wishes to the 1,351 Navy dentists (1,083 active duty and 268 reservists) on their special day.

"On behalf of Navy Medicine, I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the officers of the U.S. Navy Dental Corps in celebration of their 101st anniversary," said Nathan. "For more than a century, Navy dentists have demonstrated tireless dedication to our tenants with valor and sacrifice in service to our country. You deploy routinely across our fleet and with Marine expeditionary units, where beyond your dental duties, you assume roles in triage and surgical support at Marine battalion aid stations and battle dressing stations. You play a significant role in peace keeping and nation building through humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions that make lasting impressions on thousands of people in need of dental care. You serve as leaders in disease prevention at sea and at home, ensuring the operational dental readiness of our warfighters. You are pioneers and innovators enhancing our research capabilities and education efforts along with spearheading vital public and dental health for Sailors, Marines, their families, and our veterans. I have every confidence the Navy Dental Corps will continue to excel during their next century of service. It is my great pleasure to extend to all members of the Dental Corps, past and present, active duty and Reserve, a heartfelt "well done" and a most sincere "happy birthday!"

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