Skip to main content

Military Health System

A Deployed Dentist Recalls His 'One-Chair' Clinic in Afghanistan

Image of Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Andrew Gutierrez did a tour of duty as a dentist downrange in Afghanistan. Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Andrew Gutierrez did a tour of duty as a dentist downrange in Afghanistan. (Courtesy of Army Lt. Col. Andrew Gutierrez)

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

When a dentist is available downrange, word spreads fast.

That's because when you're on deployment for six to 12 months at a time, and something goes wrong with your teeth or mouth, getting to the dentist is a top priority.

"The soldiers knew whether there was a dentist on base. Those who needed something found me," said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Andrew Gutierrez.

Gutierrez is one of the military dentists who was in Afghanistan at the height of combat operations and provided care to service members on deployment. In 2011, Gutierrez and one dental technician were stationed at a clinic at Camp Stone in Herat, a city near Afghanistan's western border.

Gutierrez's clinic was a one-chair operation. The chair was similar to what you might see stateside. But the power to run his dental equipment came from a portable field generator. He also had X-ray capabilities and a small dental lab.

"I had pretty much everything I needed to take care of most issues that arose, from repairing fillings or chipped teeth to draining abscesses or extracting teeth," he recalled.

"Most issues were not that serious. But often soldiers found they had a little bit more time to invest in taking care of dental issues," Gutierrez said, "whether that was needing a few fillings or getting a cleaning."

"Good oral health in-theater means not having any diseases or problems that affect a soldier's ability to function, whether that be daily activities such as eating, drinking, speaking, or the ability to accomplish the mission," he said.

"I felt like I was able to educate our soldiers on the importance of oral health while downrange just because I was there with them," he explained.

"I do think maintaining oral health downrange can be difficult. Dental treatment isn't the biggest hurdle, but rather personal habits are," Gutierrez said.

"The stress encountered by soldiers during a deployment can put one's oral health low on the list of priorities."

On deployment, "soldiers are away from family, potentially not getting enough sleep, not having a good routine, and that is why remembering to brush or floss your teeth or eating well can go by the wayside," he said.

Gutierrez joined the military through the Army's Health Professions Scholarship Program. Each service has a similar program for medical and dental students.

He is now the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery assistant program director at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

You also may be interested in...

Soldiers Not Immune to Damage of Sun's Rays

Article Around MHS
7/28/2022
Soldiers not immune to damage of sun’s rays

Some soldiers have a greater risk for developing skin cancer than others. For July’s UV Safety Awareness month, soldiers should be aware of their risks and how to reduce their chances of skin cancer.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Summer Safety

Be Prepared with Back-to-School Immunizations

Video
7/28/2022
Be Prepared with Back-to-School Immunizations

Air Force Surgeon General Miller encourages parents to get their kids immunized before heading back to school in the fall.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | Immunizations | Back to School Immunizations

Doctors Recommend Sunscreen for All Skin Complexions

Article
6/13/2022
The dangers of too much sunlight – from sunspots to skin cancer – are real risks for everyone regardless of skin complexion, doctors say.

The dangers of too much sunlight – from sunspots to skin cancer – are real risks for everyone regardless of skin complexion, doctors say.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Summer Safety

For Sexually Transmitted Infections, Young People are at Higher Risk

Article
6/13/2022
Protect yourself in the war against sexually transmitted infections. If you have questions about where to find free condoms, STI testing, or treatment, contact your health care provider or local installation clinic.

Every year, thousands of service members are diagnosed with at least one sexually transmitted infection. Topping the list of the most common are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and genital herpes, military health data shows.

Recommended Content:

Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health | Women's Health

Men's Health Month - Screening

Infographic
6/1/2022
Men's Health Month - Screening

Not all illnesses and injuries demonstrate symptoms immediately. This #MensHealthMonth, be sure to ask your doctor which screenings might be right for you. #TakeChargeofYourHealth www.health.mil/menshealth

Recommended Content:

June | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Men's Health Month - Taking Charge

Infographic
6/1/2022
Men's Health Month - Taking Charge

June is #MensHealthMonth. Your strength is rooted in your health and well-being, so #BeStrong and make sure you’re staying up to date on all health screenings and tests. www.health.mil/menshealth

Recommended Content:

June | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Men's Health Month - Stigma

Infographic
6/1/2022
Men's Health Month - Stigma

#DYK? Men are 2x less likely than women to use preventive health care services. You can be the one to fight the stigma. Take action and schedule your recommended health screenings ASAP. #TakeChargeofYourHealth #MensHealthMonth www.health.mil/menshealth

Recommended Content:

June | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Kids' Teeth Grinding Usually Stops Around Age 9 or 10 - But Not Always

Article
4/15/2022
A child receives dental treatment during the “Give Kids a Smile” day event March 9, 2019, held by the 375th Dental Squadron clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Children registered for the event were given the chance to receive cleanings, fillings, and more at no cost to their parents. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Isaiah Gonzalez, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs)

Do you ever see or hear your child grinding his or her teeth or clenching his or her jaws during the day or at night while sleeping? That’s a potentially serious health problem. Teeth grinding in kids may require a night guard.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | TRICARE Dental Care

Military Dentists Provide Relief and Support in Central America

Article
3/8/2022
U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Lemieux (center), dental assistant with Army Forces Battalion, Joint Task Force-Bravo, and Col. Franklin Florence (right), general dentist with Army Forces Battalion, Joint Task Force-Bravo, prepare a patient for an extraction with assistance from a Honduran volunteer during a Global Health Engagement at Los Laureles, Santa Barbara department, Honduras, Feb. 15. JTF-Bravo, in conjunction with Honduran Ministry of Health representatives, conducted the mission to provide dental and other medical services with volunteer support from Honduran medical students, who served as interpreters.

Dental woes are common to everyone, everywhere. U.S. military medical and dental specialists conducted a Global Health Engagement with partners in Santa Barbara, Honduras, in February, where they provided dental and primary care services to local Hondurans.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | TRICARE Dental Care

Teeth Grinding: You Won't Believe How Harmful it Really Is

Article
2/28/2022
U.S. Navy Hospitalman Justin Sobleskie (right), and U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Roberts, USS Carter Hall dental department head, do dental work on aboard the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) while at sea.

Grinding your teeth, called bruxism, can lead to migraines and neck pain or require surgery to replace the joint in your jaw.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

The Chief of the Army Dental Corps Talks Dental Health & Readiness

Article
2/22/2022
The Army’s top dentist talks about what service members should keep in mind about their dental health.

Here’s what the Army’s top dentist thinks service members should keep in mind about their dental health.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness | TRICARE Dental Care

How 3D-Printed Teeth and Other New Tech are Transforming Dental Care

Article
2/15/2022
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jaden Murry had nearly all of his lower jaw removed because of a tumor. The procedure was the DOD’s first ever immediate jaw reconstruction surgery using 3D-printed teeth.

Advances in dental technology are improving care and increasing the number of patients willing to get treatment when needed.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Reduce your risk of developing cancer

Article Around MHS
2/15/2022
About one of every three Americans will develop some form of malignancy during his or her lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genes, lifestyle, and the environment work together to increase or decrease risk of getting cancer. Each person’s cancer risk is made up of a combination of these factors.

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. 

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Women’s Heart Attacks Symptoms Can Differ from Men’s: Know the Signs

Article
2/11/2022
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack can differ between women and men. If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 quickly.

Doctors say women sometimes fail to recognize their unique warnings signs for heart problems.

Recommended Content:

Heart Health Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Heart Health | Women's Health

Why Dental Health is Essential for Warfighters and Military Readiness

Article
2/4/2022
U.S. Air Force Major Rachael Parrish, 20th Dental Squadron general dentist, performs an oral exam on Airman 1st Class Amie Bickford, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron munitions technician at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, March 13, 2017. Airmen assigned to the 20th DS are tasked with ensuring airmen and soldiers on base meet all dental class requirements for deployment.

Your mouth is a gateway to your body. Bad oral hygiene can lead to serious health consequences that may affect your military readiness.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 6
Refine your search
Last Updated: February 16, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery