Thousands of armed forces troops suffering from ‘debilitating’ dental disease

Thousands of armed forces troops suffering from 'debilitating' dental disease

More than 27,000 troops across the British army, navy and air force need urgent dental treatment for rotten teeth or gum disease.

This is according to figures recovered as part of a freedom of information request by The Telegraph. The Ministry of Defence data suggests the number of troops needing urgent treatment has increased by 5,000 in 12 months. More than 10% of all troops are now affected.

The problem is reportedly so severe in the army that soldiers who miss dental appointments have been warned that they could be jailed for failing to follow orders.

Former military intelligence officer Colonel Philip Ingram said: ‘Dental fitness is a prerequisite for every service person prior to deployment on operations. All service personnel must have annual dental checks to ensure they are dentally fit.

‘Dental issues can have a major debilitating effect and undermine a service person’s ability to do their job on operations. This is why dental teams are deployed into every operational theatre.’

‘National scandal’

The BDA has previously dubbed the state of oral health within the armed forces a ‘national scandal’. The association warned that ‘dental problems trump enemy action when it comes to incapacitating our forces’.

One concern around dental disease in the armed forces is the inability of troops to perform optimally while in pain. However strong painkillers prescribed to curb dental pain can also be incompatible with combat.

A study in the British Dental Journal said: ‘Oral disease can cause substantial disruption to service personnel, resulting in debilitation and reduced effectiveness while deployed on military operations.’

Research has previously linked the armed forces workforce with a higher prevalence of dental disease than the general population. Studies indicate this could be because many troops come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have a poor diet.

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