The proof our Army really is toothless… More than 22,000 British troops need urgent dental treatment
- More than one in ten of all serving personnel in need of dental treatment
- Read more: Family of man waterboarded by British Army is awarded £350,000
More than 22,000 of Britain’s serving personnel need urgent dental treatment for tooth decay and gum disease, Ministry of Defence figures reveal.
The revelation has been described as a national scandal by the British Dental Association, which also said that more troops were incapacitated by dental issues in Iraq and Afghanistan than by enemy action.
The figures released in a parliamentary question suggest that more than one in ten of all serving personnel are in need of some form of dental treatment.
Pain caused by toothache can lead to troops being prescribed strong painkillers, which are incompatible with combat operations.
It means those with bad teeth and gums cannot fight and in some cases will be medically downgraded and will not be deployed on operations.
Drill time: Troops who miss dental appointments now face jail
The problem is now so severe within the Army that soldiers who miss dental appointments have been warned that they could be jailed for up to a week.
A recent study found that for every 1,000 troops deployed on operations, between 100 and 150 needed dental treatment. In Afghanistan, helicopters had to be flown into remote bases so that soldiers could be evacuated to Camp Bastion for dental treatment.
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Savage cuts have seen the British Army’s numbers dwindle in recent years, with about 76,000 soldiers now remaining – which will shrink under cutback plans to just 73,000. Pictured are soldiers at Salisbury on October 14
Research has shown that recruits joining the Armed Forces have more than twice as many dental problems as the rest of society, partly because many come from impoverished backgrounds with a poor diet. The Armed Forces rely on both uniformed and civilian dentists to treat troops. About 180 full and part-time uniformed dentists, supported by 100 civilian dentists, are responsible for the dental health of the entire Armed Forces – some 180,000 personnel. Colonel Philip Ingram, a former military intelligence officer, said: ‘Dental issues can have a major debilitating effect and undermine a service person’s ability to do their job on operations, which is why dental teams are deployed into every operational theatre.’
A spokesman for the British Dental Association said: ‘It’s a national scandal that dental problems trump enemy action when it comes to incapacitating our forces. A preventable disease shouldn’t be keeping them away from the front line.
‘This is the result of treating dentistry as a Cinderella service.’
An MoD spokesman said: ‘The fitness of our service personnel to deploy matters. That’s why we provide dental care to serving personnel 24 hours a day, and since the pandemic our dental teams have worked hard to prioritise those service patients who need dental care, resulting in a continued increase in those fit to deploy.
‘We are working hard to address backlogs in dental inspections for those without symptoms.’
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