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Upcoming exercises in Latin America to help Air Force achieve total dental readiness

  • Published
  • By Peter Holstein
  • Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs

Air Force dentists, hygienists and dental technicians are gearing up for three Dental Readiness Training Exercises in Latin America over the next several months, allowing Air Force dental teams to practice field dentistry and prepare for future contingency operations.

“The primary mission of the exercises will be to ensure dental personnel and deployment packages meet mission requirements,” said Col. James Kutner, the USAF Dental Expeditionary Consultant. “The teams will also provide crucial humanitarian assistance to more than 3,000 patients.”

The Air Force Dental Service has two objectives: ensure that Airmen are dentally cleared to deploy and that our dental team members are trained and ready to support short-notice contingency operations and our long-term theater clinics.

“Dental personnel are trained and prepared to address acute dental emergencies such as stabilizing jaw fractures, managing dental-related infections, completing root canal therapy and restoring fractured teeth,” said Kutner. “Over the next several months, we have two Air Force dental teams deploying to the Dominican Republic and a team deploying to Belize.”

An Army dental team will also deploy to the Dominican Republic at the same time. This exercise will let the Air Force and Army dental teams train together, and practice with host nation health team members.

“Our goal is 95 percent of our 492,000 Airmen be dentally ready to deploy,” said Kutner. “But we also need to make sure that our dental teams are prepared and ready to deploy. These DENTRETE exercises greatly improve our readiness platforms.”

DENTRETE exercise goals are to demonstrate the capability to coordinate a deployment, employ personnel and dental equipment while carrying out mission objectives, and successfully redeploy the teams back to their home stations.

The DENTRETE teams deploying to Latin America will include general dentists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, dental hygienists and dental technicians. The two teams deploying to the Dominican Republic will each have 15 members, and a smaller team is deploying to Belize.

Over the last twelve months, 22 percent of Department of Defense patients who sought medical care in theater at Air Force military treatment facilities presented for dental care. Treatments include extracting impacted molars, managing acute gum disease, and providing routine care and dental exams.

“Airmen deploy in good oral health,” said Kutner. “Dental issues can arise unexpectedly, so our dental teams must be available at deployment locations, prepared to evaluate and treat acute dental concerns as they arise.  By evaluating, treating, and returning service members back to duty as soon as possible, we help Combatant Commanders have the airpower needed to fulfill mission operations.”

 “There were 9,500 total dental encounters across three Air Force deployment locations in theater over the past 12 months,” says Kutner. “Our Air Force dental teams need to train in pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment activities to deliver vital dental care in theater per expectations of Combatant Commanders.”