SEMBACH Kaserne, Germany 

The recent COVID-19 outbreak across Europe and the curtailment of most non-emergency dental care in Army dental clinics is causing leaders to shift their military assets where they are needed most.

In the case of Army dental personnel, many have been given a new mission -- to assist in Army medical clinics across the theater.

Col. (Dr.) Manuel Pozo-Alonso, commander of Dental Health Command Europe, said, “We currently have 49 dental personnel, which is a little more than 19 percent of our active duty force, providing medical support until the mission is complete.”

Dental personnel are providing a variety of services in support of the Medical Treatment Facilities and Army Health Clinics throughout the region.

“This includes; 24-hour on-call providers, initial screenings, tracing teams, runners and administrative duties,” Pozo-Alonso said. “We also have a dentist serving as a liaison officer to the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart.”

The Army dentist tasked to provide this function to EUCOM is Maj. (Dr.) Dmitry Baron, a board-certified periodontist normally assigned to the Stuttgart Army Dental Clinic.

“As a liaison officer to EUCOM, my primary mission is to ensure there is synchronization and coordination of effort between Regional Health Command Europe and EUCOM to effectively and quickly combat the spread of COVID-19,” Baron said. “This is important in ensuring critical resources are utilized efficiently, and we’re able to support all of our combatant commands.”

Infection control and prevention in healthcare settings is playing an even more important role considering the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the globe.

“I have been involved with infection control and prevention for nearly four years,” Baron said. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and recommendation for the dental setting are changing continually; all for the sake of keeping the dental healthcare professional and patient safe, especially in the midst of COVID-19.”

Baron says it’s important to know how to communicate these policies and procedures effectively, to encourage both interest and buy-in.

“The lessons I have taken from my experience as an infection control and prevention officer directly bridges into what I am currently doing as a liaison officer -- building effective communication between Regional Health Command Europe and U.S. European Command,” he said.

As a result of the recent reduction or elimination of routine services in Army dental clinics across Europe, it is important that beneficiaries do their part to ensure good oral health is maintained.

“This is the perfect opportunity to optimize dental care at home,” Pozo-Alonso said. “Avoiding sugary foods, sweets, staying away from hard foods, chewing on ice, popcorn kernels, etc., and flossing and brushing at least twice a day will ensure optimal oral health is maintained. This will hopefully prevent, or minimize, the need for dental treatment until routine dental services can be restored.”

Pozo-Alonso added, “However, if you feel you have a real dental emergency, or are in severe pain, call your local Army dental clinic so a dental provider can get a clear picture of your particular situation. If the dental provider establishes the need for treatment, you will be scheduled for an appointment to have your dental emergency addressed.”

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