U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jessica Weissman
Imagine you’re about to deploy. You’re saying your goodbyes and taking that last hurried swig of hard liquor before boarding the bus. As you get ready to leave you notice nearly half the unit is missing. When you ask a friend where everyone is, he answers: Dental.
Your response is almost certainly going to be, “What the fuck?”
That’s precisely where the Department of Defense found itself in 2008, when 40% of its selected reserve troops were classified as being unfit for duty due to dental readiness, aka messed up teeth, reads a recent DoD press release.
Poor dental health was such a problem that the military revamped how it screened reserve service members prior to deployment.
Gone are the days where you could lie on a questionnaire by marking the box, “Yes, I floss regularly, no I don’t use tobacco, and yes I have good dental hygiene,” all while packing a lip full of Grizzly Wintergreen in between swigs of Monster or Red Bull.
“When they reported to their deployment centers before leaving the U.S., they said their teeth didn’t hurt and were told they were deployable,” Army Col. David DuBois, dental surgeon for the U.S. Army’s Reserve Command, said in the press release. “When they got to their destination, it turned into a disaster.”
To fix this, the services began offering all soon-to-deploy reservists dental examinations and treatment at no cost. In addition to preventing rampant tooth decay among reservists, it also reduced the percentage of unfit troops due to dental problems, seeing a decrease from 40% to 10% over the past eight years.
Good on the military for looking out for their troops’ well-being and dental hygiene, but this kind of begs the question: If you know your teeth are all kinds of fucked up, why don’t you get them fixed before you get shipped off to a dusty sandbox? After all, when you’re deployed the statement “Sar’nt, my teeth hurt,” is more likely to get you an ass chewing than a tooth cleaning.
Hell, even the military’s dentists are aware of this.
“If I had to choose between a nice, air-conditioned office or a makeshift clinic in tough conditions, I know which one I would want,” said DuBois. “It’s much better to take care for this stuff at home.”
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