GARMISCH, Germany — Approximately 170 dental practitioners, support staff and guest speakers from across the European theater convened last week to share best practices, promote dental readiness and obtain continuing medical education credits.
The 62nd Annual U.S. Army Dental Corps European Training Conference, hosted by Dental Health Command Europe, consisted of dental professionals and support staff from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force as well as representatives from the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands. The annual dental training program is open to all Department of Defense dentists, NATO partner dentists and other affiliated dental providers.
During his opening remarks, Col. Manuel Pozo-Alonso, commander of Dental Health Command Europe and host for the annual training conference, said, “It is amazing to think that this event has been going strong for 62 years. I still remember the first time I came to Garmisch as a Navy dental officer in 1995 and now, looking across the room, I see that many of you were not even born then.”
When describing the objective of the training conference, Pozo-Alonso added, “This event is critical in maintaining a medically ready force in order to perform our core mission. It is a chance to learn from each other and to build long lasting bridges of cooperation and understanding.”
A WIDE VARIETY OF TOPICS
The five-day multinational and multiservice dental training event consisted of presentations, guest speakers, and several hands-on demonstrations covering a variety of topics.
The presentations covered a variety of dental-related topics ranging from the management of dental trauma to sleep related breathing disorders.
Hands-on demonstrations were given by subject matter experts on; neuromuscular repetitive strain injury prevention, cranial nerve examination and staining and glazing.
One of those hands-on demonstrations on cranial nerve examinations was given by Lt. Col. Thomas Stark, Chief of Pediatric Dentistry at the Wiesbaden Army Dental Clinic.
While not a primary function of dentistry, Stark suggested that all dentists should be familiar with how to perform a cranial nerve exam, especially when managing patients with craniofacial trauma.
When asked how cranial nerve exams relate to dentistry and their use by Army dentists, Stark responded by saying, “Dentists are excellent at managing dental injuries; however, they may have little experience being a first responder following complex head trauma.”
“The mouth and jaws are part of the head, therefore all dentists should have a basic knowledge of normal cranial nerve function. During dental school we memorize the cranial nerves and their function. In our practices we routinely anesthetize sensory nerves and assess facial form and function. Reviewing basic neuroanatomy may help us appropriately triage patients to higher levels of care if necessary,” added Stark.
FOCUS ON DENTAL READINESS
As part of the Army’s focus on Soldier readiness, the Army dental community is constantly looking for ways to reduce Soldier down time so they can spend more time preparing for their wartime mission.
One of the ways Army dentists are increasing Soldier readiness is through the use of computer- aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) in the fabrication of dental crowns.
A hands-on demonstration on the use of this relatively new computer technology was given by Maj. Michael Kroll, director of the Fort Sill Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program and deputy consultant to the Army Surgeon General for general dentistry. Maj. Kroll coined the term “Rapid Readiness” to describe this automated technology.
According to Kroll, “Rapid Readiness is a term I developed for the utilization of CAD/CAM (computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing) technology to speed up the delivery of crowns to military beneficiaries.”
“CAD/CAM increases readiness by reducing waste within a process, speeding up our system for fabricating crowns, and standardizing the process for a quicker turn-around time. We can often create crowns in one appointment (less than 3 hours), and night mouth guards in 24 hours,” Kroll said.
“CAD fabricated restorations allow us to decrease lead time of restorations, reduce costs, and increase readiness. Less visits to the dentist means more time with the unit, and less time in a temporary restoration means more time in a world-wide deployable status. The short of it is, a final dental crown in about two or three hours. No temporary crown, and no extra visits to the dentist,” added Kroll.
When it comes to dental readiness and oral hygiene, Kroll offered the following advice, “Maintain proper oral hygiene by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay and flossing regularly to prevent gum disease.”
He commented, “It goes beyond simply brushing and flossing though. Your mouth will always have bacteria and in a lot of ways ‘you are what you eat.’ If you eat a diet high in refined sugar and processed food the bacteria in your mouth will be geared toward an environment that is rich in food for them to eat and produce byproducts that can harm your teeth.”
“A plant based diet rich in dark green vegetables supplemented with high quality protein will shift bacteria that live in your mouth to a state that is healthy for your teeth and can actually protect your teeth from the occasional sweet treat. Eating green does more than make you lose weight and feel better, it also keeps you out of the dental chair,” said Kroll.
A MULTINATIONAL EVENT
The large gathering of dental professionals at the training conference included several NATO partners from the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands.
Among those in attendance was British Army Col. David Willey, a career dental officer currently serving in a non-clinical staff position at the NATO Allied Headquarters Joint Force Command in Brunssum, Belgium.
When asked about his thoughts on this year’s dental training conference, Willey said, “The conference provides an excellent opportunity to undertake high-quality continuing education. As my current role is non-clinical, it’s not always easy to maintain sufficient exposure to continuing education, but it is something I need to do in order to retain my dental license and registration. I have being coming to the Garmisch dental training conference for a number of years.”
He added, “This training conference allows the opportunity to engage with United States and NATO partners’ senior dental leadership. The conference is always an excellent opportunity for wider networking. Of course, there are a few old faces every year; but also a steady stream of new attendees.”
When asked how the British Army dental system differs from the United States Army dental system, Willey responded, “The British Army now only employs 60 regular Army dental officers. We are a lot smaller than the United States Army.”
Willey indicated that another major difference is that the British military has taken on more of a joint approach when it comes to providing dental care to its service members.
He said, “Dental delivery has been using a joint, tri-service model since 1997. We have much greater inter-operability (both in-barracks and on operational deployments) than the U.S. Army Dental Corps. It is interesting to see that this appears to be the direction of travel in U.S. military as well now.”
When explaining the role military dentists play in readiness, Willey stated, “It’s all about preparing the force in order to reduce the incidence and impact of dental morbidity during deployments. This extends from preventative activity to operative interventions.”
“We also work closely with the chain of command to achieve unity of effort between force commanders and healthcare providers,” Willey added.