Skip to main content

Military Health System

A Deployed Dentist Recalls His 'One-Chair' Clinic in Afghanistan

Image of Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Andrew Gutierrez did a tour of duty as a dentist downrange in Afghanistan. Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Andrew Gutierrez did a tour of duty as a dentist downrange in Afghanistan. (Courtesy of Army Lt. Col. Andrew Gutierrez)

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Dental Care | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

When a dentist is available downrange, word spreads fast.

That's because when you're on deployment for six to 12 months at a time, and something goes wrong with your teeth or mouth, getting to the dentist is a top priority.

"The soldiers knew whether there was a dentist on base. Those who needed something found me," said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Andrew Gutierrez.

Gutierrez is one of the military dentists who was in Afghanistan at the height of combat operations and provided care to service members on deployment. In 2011, Gutierrez and one dental technician were stationed at a clinic at Camp Stone in Herat, a city near Afghanistan's western border.

Gutierrez's clinic was a one-chair operation. The chair was similar to what you might see stateside. But the power to run his dental equipment came from a portable field generator. He also had X-ray capabilities and a small dental lab.

"I had pretty much everything I needed to take care of most issues that arose, from repairing fillings or chipped teeth to draining abscesses or extracting teeth," he recalled.

"Most issues were not that serious. But often soldiers found they had a little bit more time to invest in taking care of dental issues," Gutierrez said, "whether that was needing a few fillings or getting a cleaning."

"Good oral health in-theater means not having any diseases or problems that affect a soldier's ability to function, whether that be daily activities such as eating, drinking, speaking, or the ability to accomplish the mission," he said.

"I felt like I was able to educate our soldiers on the importance of oral health while downrange just because I was there with them," he explained.

"I do think maintaining oral health downrange can be difficult. Dental treatment isn't the biggest hurdle, but rather personal habits are," Gutierrez said.

"The stress encountered by soldiers during a deployment can put one's oral health low on the list of priorities."

On deployment, "soldiers are away from family, potentially not getting enough sleep, not having a good routine, and that is why remembering to brush or floss your teeth or eating well can go by the wayside," he said.

Gutierrez joined the military through the Army's Health Professions Scholarship Program. Each service has a similar program for medical and dental students.

He is now the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery assistant program director at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

You also may be interested in...

Preventive Care Child 3

Infographic
7/20/2021
Preventive Care Child 3

Preventive Care Supports a Ready Force

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Preventive Care Screenings 1

Infographic
7/20/2021
Preventive Care Screenings 1

Preventive Care Supports a Ready Force

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Preventive Care Dental

Infographic
7/20/2021
Preventive Care Dental

Preventive Care Supports a Ready Force

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Preventive Care Screenings 2

Infographic
7/20/2021
Preventive Care Screenings 2

Preventive Care Supports a Ready Force

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Preventive Care Child 2

Infographic
7/20/2021
Preventive Care Child 2

Preventive Care Supports a Ready Force

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Preventive Care Diabetes 1

Infographic
7/20/2021
Preventive Care Diabetes 1

Preventive Care Supports a Ready Force

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Preventive Care Child 1

Infographic
7/20/2021
Preventive Care Child 1

Preventive Care Supports a Ready Force

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Preventive Care Diabetes 2

Infographic
7/20/2021
Preventive Care Diabetes 2

Preventive Care Supports a Ready Force

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

What to Know About Hepatitis - its Treatment, and Prevention

Article
7/19/2021
picture of a liver

Here are the most important facts you should know about hepatitis.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Sexually transmitted infections – you may have one and not know it

Article
7/6/2021
Infographic about STIs

Many service members are at high risk for Sexually Transmitted Infection -- rates have been increasing over the past several years

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Migraine Facts and Helpful Treatments

Article
6/17/2021
Military personnel receiving treatment for headaches

For migraine sufferers, there is help, and communication is key

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Hernias: What Every Service Member Should Know

Article
6/11/2021
Military personnel performing a bench press

Hernias are common. What you need to know about diagnosing, treating, and preventing hernias

Recommended Content:

Men's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Be proactive in looking for early signs of testicular cancer

Article
4/9/2021
Military health personnel giving and examination

While the diagnosis of cancer can be frightening, testicular cancer can usually be cured.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health | April | Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention

Decide + Be Ready: supporting today’s modern service woman

Article
3/23/2021
Picture of three different women with the words "decide and be ready mobile app"

New women’s app ‘Decide + Be Ready’, helps today’s service woman make proactive decisions regarding their contraceptive decisions.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Cardiovascular providers counter pandemic-induced sedentary lifestyle

Article
2/26/2021
Military health personnel sticking an IV in a patient's arm

COVID-19 fears likely affecting cardiovascular care but not at military medical treatment facilities.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Heart Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Heart Health Toolkit | Heart Health Toolkit
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 46 - 60 Page 4 of 6
Refine your search
Last Updated: February 16, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery