Could the nation’s security depend on community water fluoridation?
Most people don’t know that a leading cause for why recruits in both World War I and II were rejected from serving in the military was a lack of teeth. And, if asked to take a guess, many of us might venture that people’s teeth aren’t nearly as bad today. And they’d be right. But bad oral health continues to prevent the nation’s service members from being ready to deploy.
The Department of Defense determines dental readiness classifications (DRC) of service members as part of an assessment their Individual Medical Readiness to serve in the military. A Class 3 dental readiness classification (DRC 3) is assigned to those who require urgent or emergent dental treatment. “DRC 3 patients normally are not considered to be worldwide-deployable.”
As recently as 2008, over half (52.4%) of Department of Defense recruits were considered to be Dental Readiness Class 3 – that is, not considered to be worldwide-deployable.
Nearly 61% of recruits reported that they felt they needed dental care and said they hadn’t received it because it was just too expensive. And while community water fluoridation is not a replacement for either good oral hygiene or regular visits to the dentist, it has been shown to reduce rates of tooth decay by about 25%. Surely military recruits, along with everyone else, deserve every preventive measure available to help them be able to help us.