This morning I was leafing through one of the many dental magazines we receive, Inside Dentistry. The cover has a handsome young man in uniform with a cover story entitled, “Dentist Deployed”, by Allison M. DiMatteo.

I know from trying to write a blog each week just how tough it can be to come up with something new to say about dentistry. However, I think Allison achieved this. At first I thought this article might be about the obvious when I read, “Keeping soldiers dentally fit ensures that they can perform their military duties when called upon. In short, a dentally fit soldier is better able to serve their country by being mission-ready”. Duh, I thought, this applies to everyone in any job. We all perform better when we are healthy and pain free. I cannot think of any position in life, any career, or any moment in which a tooth ache helps someone. I don’t know, maybe if you want to get out of P.E. class . . .

She says modern day military missions use fewer soldiers so the loss of one soldier (due to tooth ache, or for any reason) has a greater impact on a mission than it did in WWII. OK, I’ll buy that, but the thing that I had never considered was that, “reducing the need for dental treatment when they are deployed, reduces (a soldiers) overall risk for injury.” How can that be, I wondered?

She goes on to write that when a soldier has a dental emergency in the field they have to physically get to a dentist, “and  that puts them at significant risk for being injured by an improvised explosive device (IED)”. I had never considered that every time a soldier gets into a vehicle, even just to see the dentist, that they are at risk of being blown to bits.

This made me think of what a cake walk my life really is. Sure, I complain about traffic, and while the construction on the capital beltway has made it fraught with ICP’s (incidental construction perils) it cannot compare to being in a jeep in Afghanistan. Very few trips to the dentist in the DC area end up with the patient losing a limb. I’ll go out on a limb and venture to say that no dental visits in the U.S. end up with a patient losing a limb. Apparently that cannot be said of dental visits in a war zone.

Sitting here, comfy and safe in the dental office, I am thinking about our soldiers in war zones, and feeling very fortunate that I am here. I also feel grateful that there are brave folks who voluntarily risk their lives for us everyday, so I don’t have to.

If you are a soldier please, please be sure you are in tip top dental health before you deploy (and maintain your oral hygiene when you are there); if you work at McDonald’s, or IBM it’s a good idea as well. If you need a great dentist call us anytime.

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