Back to Top Skip to main content

Military dentists do much more than ‘drill and fill’

U.S. Army Capt. John Mann (left), 129th Area Support Medical Company dentist, prepares dental instruments for an exam at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Dental technicians perform oral cleanings, prepare dental instruments and assist dentists with procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman) U.S. Army Capt. John Mann (left), 129th Area Support Medical Company dentist, prepares dental instruments for an exam at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Dental technicians perform oral cleanings, prepare dental instruments and assist dentists with procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman)

Recommended Content:

Dental Care

It’s easy to look at dentists as specialists at “drilling and filling,” but dentists serve vital roles, educating about oral health and acting as advance scouts for problems with a patient’s overall physical well-being.

“Our prime goals are to preserve the natural teeth for as long as possible, stop the progress of the disease that causes cavities, and provide patients with the information and equipment to ensure they can keep teeth healthy throughout their life,” said Army Capt. George Hauser, Officer in Charge at the Fort Detrick Dental Clinic in Frederick, Maryland.

Hauser described one patient who was so afraid of receiving dental care that she avoided seeing a dentist for years. Decay had become so extensive that her front teeth were mottled black.

“After I removed the decay and restored her front teeth, she looked in the mirror and started crying,” said Hauser. For years she had been covering her mouth with her hand when she spoke with people to mask the shame she felt about her diseased teeth.

“This is the true reward in the profession of dentistry,” said Hauser, “the ability to affect a profound change in another person.”

General dentistry involves many tasks, including cleaning, examining, repairing teeth and surrounding areas, filling cavities, administering anesthetics, and prescribing medication. Most importantly, dental providers educate patients about diets, flossing, using fluoride, and overall oral health.

“We work the hardest of any profession to put ourselves out of business because if everybody did what we asked them to do, we wouldn’t be as busy as we are,” said Air Force Col. Nancy Motyka, program director of the two-year Comprehensive Dentistry Residency at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Even so, many patients can be intimidated or nervous to go to a dental appointment.

In addition to oral medicine, dentists receive training in general medicine, so they often know what conditions in a patient’s mouth can reveal about overall health. For example, one of Motyka’s patients came in with white spots on the gums. Motyka suspected a yeast or Candida infection, and suggested the patient get his blood sugar level checked. Her suspicions were later confirmed through testing, and the patient’s physician prescribed medication for diabetes.

Motyka, who served 20 years as a civilian dentist before joining the Air Force, places the highest priority on the comfort of her patients. She stresses the importance of helping them understand what will be done and explaining why a procedure is necessary before beginning any work. As with Hauser, Motyka said that seeing the gratification on patients’ faces after alleviating pain or improving a smile is her reward.

“As a dentist,” said Hauser, “you can truly make a difference in a patient’s life.”

You also may be interested in...

What's Changing Under the TRICARE Dental Program?

Changes are coming to the TRICARE Dental Program.  Under the TRICARE Dental Program, access to care is guaranteed.  Premiums are lower for all beneficiaries, while including $200 more in benefits per year.  Preventative sealants are now fully covered, and automatic enrollment for children now occurs at age 4.  Additionally, the TRICARE Dental program also features enhanced benefits for enrollees with chronic conditions and special needs.  To find a dentist, visit the TRICARE dental network online at  For more information about improvements to the TRICARE Dental Program, visit  For general information about the TRICARE Dental Program, visit, or call 1-844-652-4061 for CONUS inquiries or 1-844-653-4060 for OCONUS inquiries.

Beginning May 1, 2017, United Concordia will assume responsibility for administering the TRICARE Dental Program, replacing the outgoing dental contractor, MetLife. With the new contract comes enhanced benefits and other changes. You can learn more at

Recommended Content:

Dental Care

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

Eduardo Sanchez, a Dominican student, gets his teeth repaired at the Rio San Juan clinic, Dominican Republic.  Sanchez is one of more than 400 patients that received dental care during a Dental Readiness Training Exercise, an exercise where U.S. military dentists and dental technicians partnered with dental professionals from the Dominican Republic, and practiced their craft in an expeditionary environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Chenzira Mallory)

Air Force dentists, hygienists and dental technicians are gearing up for three Dental Readiness Training Exercises in Latin America

Recommended Content:

Dental Care | Health Readiness

Oral health matters

A Soldier with C Company, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment brushes his teeth on a cold morning at the Victory Forge field training exercise on Fort Jackson, South Carolina. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

Despite advances in dental care and hygiene, deployed service members are still at risk of ‘trench mouth’ – technically referred to as necrotizing periodontal disease

Recommended Content:

Dental Care | Human Performance Resource Center

Poor dental health leading cause of readiness issues

Air Force Lt. Col. Val Hagans and Army Spc. Laketa Bryant extract a patient's wisdom teeth at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq in 2010. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Tabitha Kuykendall)

Good dental health is important to overall readiness. The Military Health System has made improvements to its dental readiness.

Recommended Content:

Dental Care | Deployment Health | Reserve Health Readiness Program

February is National Children's Dental Health Month

From left, Air Force Staff Sgt. Soohwa Ono, Senior Airman Vanessa Rivas and Capt. Daniel Chartrand promote pediatric oral hygiene at the Kelly Child Development Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

The dental community is reaching out and educating teachers and parents on the importance of establishing good oral habits and hygiene

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Dental Care

Proper dental care can prevent disease

Navy Lt. Michelle Romeo teaches a first-grade student proper brushing techniques during  Dental Health Month at Graham A. Barden Elementary School in Havelock N.C. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Grace L. Waladkewics)

More than fighting bad breath or preventing gingivitis, research shows that dental health also contributes to the overall well-being of people

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Health Readiness | Dental Care
<< < 1 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 6 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.