For 39 days a year, I wear the uniform of the U. S. Army. That’s 12 weekends and 15 days of annual training. But for 365 days a year, I am a dental student, a person and a member of a community. Veterans face barriers to accessing dental care they need. Opportunities arise around us every day to serve others. How can we use our knowledge and skills as dentists to serve those who served our country?
Currently, I am a fourth-year dental student at University of Missouri — Kansas City School of Dentistry. My first experiences with regular dental care were provided by the Army at Fort Bragg North Carolina. Fortunately, I had a positive experience, which inspired me to pursue dentistry and to continue serving in the military through the Kansas Army National Guard (KSARNG).
Identifying the need
KSARNG is authorized 5,200 troops. Most of this volunteer force is deployable. Unfortunately, between 800 to 1,000 of the 5,200 troops are considered non-deployable due to oral disease requiring dental care. Rural Kansas has limited access to dental care. Most communities lack fluoridated water and oral health literacy. I currently serve as a Medical Service Corps officer with the dental section in my KSARNG unit. In this role, I review soldiers identified as non-deployable due to dental disease and help them get to a healthy, deployable status. I do this by managing cases and providing dental education. Two ASDA members who also serve in our unit educate fellow service members and assist our unit dentists throughout the examination process.
Planning the outreach event
I asked my company commander if I could organize an event where ASDA members provided education and oral hygiene items to soldiers prior to their exams. After receiving permission from my company commander, the ASDA Council on Professional Issues arranged a sponsorship with Colgate to provide supplies for our outreach event during our company’s drill events in November. We would be providing exams to over 1,000 soldiers. Check out the ASDA Chapter Community Service How-To Guide for detailed, step-by-step information about planning an effective outreach event.
Two weeks prior to the event, I was notified that my unit decided to cancel the event. This was a discouraging development. Working with the council, Colgate and my unit, we found a way to host the event three days prior to the drill. A regional Colgate academic manager who lives locally facilitated the product delivery in person the day before the event. We provided meaningful oral health education and home-care support for over 300 soldiers. Being flexible and prepared to deal with unexpected situations is critical to outreach events.
Measuring the impact
In total, Colgate provided toothbrushes and toothpaste for 366 soldiers in early November at one event and nearly 700 soldiers later in the month at another event. In any outreach event, measuring and tracking the impact you make is critical. Metrics you collect can determine what to improve and to expand the event if repeated again.
We can help veterans and our troops get the dental care they need. Learning about underserved populations, including veterans, is critical to better serving these groups and is the central goal of the ASDA National Outreach Initiative.
~ 2LT David Casteel, Missouri-Kansas City ’18, District 8 Trustee
ASDA’s National Outreach Initiative is generously supported by
This content is sponsored and does not necessarily reflect the views of ASDA.