Dental Care and the Armed Forces – Advice From Dr. Jacques

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Dentistry Today
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Something that tends to go below the radar a bit, is the oral health of our veterans and active duty service members. It’s just as important as anything else. Oral emergencies can pull a soldier off the front line, for instance. It’s crucial that prospective servicemen and women know this and work to protect their teeth with proper dental care. In keeping with that, we reached out to an expert named Dr. Michael Jacques, a Navy reservist and manager of clinical management at the organization known as DentaQuest.

Our writer was able to ask him a few questions that Dr. Jacques was gracious enough to answer.

How is good oral health critical to a soldier’s safety and career while deployed?

It is essential for the soldier, sailor, marine, or airman to be fully medical and dental ready. A root canal or wisdom tooth causing severe pain will take them out of the battle zone, thus reducing their unit’s or platoon’s fighting strength. If this does happen, it can cripple the service member’s career development, since it is preventable pre-deployment.

How does a pre-mobilization exam go? What are the steps to examine these soldiers?

Dental x-rays are taken at a military medical facility and a dental exam is completed by a licensed dental provider commissioned with one of the service branches. These are required annually during non-deployment status, as well as immediately before a deployment. X-rays need to be updated every two years or new x-rays are ordered if there are any new dental concerns present. Deep cavities close to the nerve, symptomatic wisdom teeth erupting, and fractured teeth needing large fillings are diagnosed if presented in the dental exam. This will then prevent the military member from deploying until these dental items are resolved.

What happens if a soldier has to be taken out of their unit for emergency services?

If a military member has a dental emergency, they will be treated on site if the proper dental support is available. If not, they will need to be medically evacuated by either ground (i.e. Humvee) or air (i.e. helicopter) to a base that offers the required dental care. This increases the risk of the member and those assisting with their needed treatment, especially when in a war zone.

What happens if a pre-mobilization exam finds someone physically unfit for service?

They do not deploy until their significant dental treatment (described above) is completed.

Are there any oral health tips you could offer to prospective soldiers?

As is true for all of us, preventive oral healthcare is critical for ensuring optimal health. In the case of our country’s service members, there are some common habits – in addition to regular dental visits – to help ensure deployment readiness. Many times, most of our military members (i.e. soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen) are out in the field or on a ship training pre-deployment. This training requires rehydration. It is best to rehydrate with water. Many times when performing dental exams, I find out that they are rehydrating with sugary drinks such as Gatorade, Mountain Dew, or energy drinks. This only leads to an increase in acidity in the mouth and causes a higher risk of dental cavities. Also, daily brushing habits, especially when training, is overlooked in an austere environment.

ABOUT DR. JACQUES

Dr. Michael Jacques grew up in Houston, Texas. He attended the University of Texas at Austin for undergraduate studies and then the University of Texas at School of Dentistry in Houston for dental school. While attending dental school, Dr. Jacques was awarded the United States Army Health Professions Scholarship. He proudly served in the Army for four years as a general dentist, which included a deployment to Baghdad, Iraq in 2005. In 2013, Dr. Jacques joined the US Navy Reserves as a dental officer and continues to serve with the reserves.

He joined DentaQuest on February 17th, 2012, when the company first started in Texas. As the manager of clinical management, he oversees dental consultant staffing and operational processes to ensure accuracy and efficiency is met for our client’s needs. Currently this includes 48 dental consultants.

He resides with his family in Austin, Texas. Dr. Jacques and his wife Roxanne have nine children. Five girls and four boys. He enjoys “spending time with the kids” and their multitude of activities, as well as playing different sports. Dr. Jacques is a board member of the Sacred Heart Community Dental Clinic located in Round Rock, Texas, and is also active with the Saint Francis Medical Mission Organization, which goes to underserved countries once a year to provide medical and dental care.

“Working for DentaQuest has been both a rewarding and exciting challenge. I take great pride with what comes in representing clinical management and the team of dental consultants within our amazing company as we strive to be a model of professionalism, as well as a representative for all DentaQuest values.”