The Duchess of Gloucester is the Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Army Dental Corps.
The RADC has taken care of the Army’s dental health since 1921 and continues to provide high-quality dental care to soldiers both in barracks and on operations around the world including Iraq, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone in the fight against Ebola. Wherever the Army operates, the dental officers and dental nurses of the RADC will be on hand.
Uniformed dental teams are trained to the required military standards to work alongside their colleagues on operations. The teams provide and maintain a high level of dental fitness, reducing the number of dental problems experienced by soldiers on the front line.
We are prepared to step out and do something a bit different to provide care for our forces Colonel Tim Davies, Chief Dental Officer
The RADC is currently made up of around 80 dentists. When operating in barracks, most of the dental work takes place alongside Defence Primary Healthcare. Within the Field Army, dental officers and nurses work within medical regiments supporting operations and exercises.
Over the past 18 months the Army’s dental personnel have had to face unique challenges thrown up by the global pandemic.
The Army’s Chief Dental Officer Colonel Tim Davies says, “Covid-19 has had a dramatic effect on UK dentistry and in many ways initially it came to a halt. However, it didn’t come to a halt with military dentistry because although we were initially restricted by the availability of PPE, we endeavoured to ensure our military personnel deploying on operations were as dentally fit as possible.
“But as Covid-19 progressed a backlog did develop. When PPE became more widely available, we discovered another issue – the requirement to implement a fallow period. This is an interval between patients of up to an hour long to ensure the room was clear of any virus before reuse.”
Deploying units in isolated locations and maintaining dental fitness then became difficult due to the lack of local dental surgeries and the requirement to adhere to a fallow period.
Seizing the challenge, the RADC created Field Army Portable Dental Units. Since these tented field dental surgeries were set up outdoors the fallow period was minimised as the airflow through tents was plentiful.
The concept, once proved through required healthcare checks at Chester, was then successfully rolled out at Tern Hill in Shropshire, home of 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, and Fort George in Inverness, home of the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Colonel Tim Davies added, “This is a great example of Defence Primary Healthcare and the Field Army working together. I think this has been an immense step forward for forces dentistry. It has proved the agility and flexibility of the personnel in the Corps and also the fact that we are prepared to step out and do something a bit different to provide care for our forces and make it work for our personnel and Defence.”
The Army recruits qualified dentists and dental nurses as well as dental students and unqualified applicants wishing to train as dental nurses. The RADC has both Regular (full time) and Reserve (part-time) dentists in its ranks. Free dental care is one of the many personal health benefits that soldiers enjoy.