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Fit to bite: Dental readiness for Airmen, Soldiers

U.S. Air Force Major DeAndra Price-Newby, 633rd Medical Group general dentist (left) performs a dental exam at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia., Jan. 30, 2018. It’s every service members responsibility to stay up to date on exams and make sure they get any follow-up treatment done. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer)

Story by Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer

633rd Air Base Wing/Public Affairs

Every week new Airmen arrive to here to become part of a lethal force known as the U.S. Air Force. Staying fit to fight is driven into every service member from the time they enter basic training to the time they are out of the military.

Part of being fit to fight is keeping all parts of the body ready to deploy anytime, anyplace, including dental health.

Members of JBLE have benefits they can use to make sure their teeth remain clean, stay in Classification 1 or 2 and ready to be called to a mission without any hesitation or hindering.

Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis have clinics to service active duty members with top notch dental care. The Langley Dental Clinic, Ft. Eustis hospital dental clinic and Tignor Dental Clinic are available for service members.

“Proper oral hygiene helps maintain overall fitness for duty and remain in a deployable status,” said U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Michelle Newman, NCO in charge Tignor Dental Clinic. “Not only that, but teeth that function properly allows good nutrition, contributing to overall health.”

Service members are encouraged to use proper hygiene when it comes to dental health.

“It’s dental recommendation that Airmen brush and floss every day, brush twice for at least 2 minutes, and floss at least once a day,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Morreyah Snyder, 633rd Medical Group NCO in charge of the Air Force Dental Readiness Assurance Program. “Make sure you’re conscious of what you’re eating too because those can add to the higher risk factors of getting cavities and what not.”

JBLE service members are classified under Class 1, 2, 3 or 4 for their dental health. Class 1 and 2 are the groups that most service members should fall under, this means that they are deployable and their teeth aren’t going to cause them any issues. Class 3 means the member cannot deploy because treatment is needed for an issue that could cause an emergency within a six month timeframe. Class 4 is unknown and is typically given to new Airmen who just arrived on base, but can also mean an Airman may be overdue for a checkup.

“Soldiers who fail to exercise good oral hygiene are likely to develop oral disease(s) and risk becoming unfit for duty, which in turn impacts unit readiness,” said Newman

Being overdue can cause problems for a service member if they have an issue that needs to be looked at.

“They could end up having something that turns into an emergency and now they’re a Class 3 and we could’ve prevented it months ago by them just coming in,” said U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Amanda Leak, 633rd MDG NCO in charge of Records and Reception.

Although the clinics have systems and people who are able to track which Airmen are due for exams or treatments, it’s ultimately the service members’ responsibility to stay current on any appointments.

Not staying current can have a negative effect on a unit if their member ends up needing emergency care because of negligence or can’t perform their job.

Some symptoms or diagnoses need medications that can deter members from doing their job. For example, if a security forces member needs to be put on a narcotic because of an issue that could have been prevented, they aren’t able to operate any of their weapons.

For more information on how to keep up good dental health, call the Langley Dental Clinic at 225-7630, option 1 then 2 or Fort Eustis at the hospital dental clinic 757-314-7925 or Tignor Dental Clinic 757-314-8015. Service members can check their dental status on the Air Force portal in the IMR/ASIMS button.

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