Capt. (Dr.) Adrienne Rembert performs preventive care on a patient. The Army is rolling out the new Go First Class dental program Oct. 1. (Candateshia Pafford / Army)
The Army is offering soldiers one-stop dental services to boost dental health across the force.
Although dental services are available to soldiers, the new Go First Class program will allow soldiers to get an examination, a cleaning and treatment at a single appointment.
Mass pre-deployment dental exams for soldiers have been expeditious, but they have not been efficient at getting soldiers all of the dental care they need, said Col. Bryan Kalish, director of health care delivery for Army Dental Command at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
“While it worked to get soldiers ready to deploy, you had to stop all functions in the dental clinic to get 3,000 soldiers out the door,” Kalish said. “What we hope is we’re shifting away from this mass-exam and hurry-before-they’re-out-the-door treatment. It happens on the way back, too — deferred dentistry as we call it —where soldiers come back and they have all these needs.”
Each of the Army’s 130 clinics must be ready to offer Go First Class by Oct. 1. The program reached initial operating capability in July after successful pilot programs at Fort Gordon, Ga.; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
“The feedback I’m getting from commanders and soldiers is very positive,” said Col. Ken Dunn, director of health care support. “With GFC, most soldiers only need to visit the dentist once a year. They are away from their units much less.”
Repeat visits were costing the Army time and money, a point dental command wants to make to garrison commanders it hopes will encourage soldiers into the program. Soldiers have experienced monthlong waits between visits for exams, cleanings and fillings, Kalish said.
“If you give us your soldier for one to two hours, we’ll give you so much time back because you decrease those multiple trips to the clinic,” Kalish said. “It’s a significant amount of time when you add it up across all the soldiers all over the world.”
Kalish estimated that if every soldier had a Go First Class appointment, the Army would receive 1.25 million of hours of lost productivity.
Preventive care and care at the point of diagnosis are the emphases of the program.
According to Kalish, half of all soldiers have at least one cavity, and he predicts that one-third of all soldiers who were cavity-free last year will be diagnosed with at least one cavity this year.
Yet, only half of all soldiers receive an annual dental cleaning each year. The goal now is to provide every soldier with an annual cleaning.
“We want to give you, the soldier, everything you deserve, but you have to come in and see us,” Kalish said.
Soldiers with significant dental problems are likely to have more than one visit.
Because the program provides more treatment, soldiers should arrive 20 minutes before their appointments and cancel, if necessary, at least 48 hours in advance.
“A soldier failing to show up for a GFC appointment can be costly,” Kalish said. “To decrease failed appointments, soldiers are highly encouraged to place the appointment into their smartphone calendar and use the built-in alerts to remind them.”