Sometimes we overlook the little convinces of daily healthcare. Do you have an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, different kinds of floss, mouthwash and whitening kits in your bathroom cabinet? Not everyone has the luxury of having these items handy at all times. Unfortunately not everyone has resources like these to have great oral health, no bad breath and minimal dental plaque. Similarly, not everyone has access to dental cleanings and fillings. This is why Fort Gordon has designed a pilot program to improve the oral health care of those serving in the army.
Go First Class program began earlier this year at Fort Gordon and Fort Bliss in Texas in the hopes to improve and streamline the dental hygiene process for soldiers. The program is aimed at condensing all necessary procedures into one visit because of the busy schedule that soldiers have. This would include tooth varnishing, cleanings to get rid of dental plaque build-up, fillings and other necessary exams. Already implemented at the two posts, the program will begin to be phased into all 130 of the Army's Dental Command clinics. This process is expected to be completed by October 1.
Currently, every solider is required to have an annual checkup, which would include a cleaning and any cavity treatments that are necessary. However, because in the past physical fitness has been a main concern, many were overlooking the importance of having a healthy mouth. Officials intend to cut out the amount of sick time soldiers have to take with the program, as dental health can play a major role in the overall health of the body.
"Because of this program, you can treat at the time of diagnosis," Col. Bryan Kalish, the command's director of health care delivery told The Augusta Chronicle. "And if all of our 130-plus clinics around the world do their due diligence and really study their populations, we figure we can get approximately 50 percent of our soldiers to walk out that day and not have to come back until next year."
Bundled services make it much easier for soldiers to get all of the necessary procedures they need at once, and the overall feedback thus far is positive. Kalish told the publication that the program will decrease the amount of sick days taken, and he predicts that up to 1.25 million hours of time will be given back to unit commanders across the Army.
As new research continues to emerge on a regular basis regarding the importance of oral hygiene, more and more people are taking it more seriously. Studies have linked cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and HPV to having poor oral hygiene and too much dental plaque in the mouth.
This program will also make it easier for soldiers to go to the dentist, as it will now be possible for them to set appointments according to their schedules, transforming the entire system that was previously in place. Since the initiative has been put in place in some areas, the amount of "dentally non-deployable" soldiers has decreased significantly. Similarly, the number of soldiers who have no dental treatment needs has increased, likely due to cleanings that prevent issues.
The Go First Class program officially kicked off July 1, but is still being phased in across the country. The program was incepted nearly three years ago after Army officials determined that not enough soldiers were getting their teeth cleaned, leading to necessary cavity treatments and other oral health issues.