MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – A toothache can be a horrible thing, and without proper oral care, a tooth can bring a lot of pain to a Marine in a combat environment.
To help prevent an oral-related injury and provide emergency dental care, sailors with 1st Dental Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, set up a field dental clinic. The dental technicians and dentists provide care and send information about their work to the patient’s dental clinic so the results are properly filed.
“We are providing anybody out here on the hit list with exams or cleanings,” said Seaman Apprentice Tyler D. Walkem, a dental technician with 1st Dental Battalion, 1st MLG. “Then we will send the forms back to their respective dental clinics.”
The sailors, operating out of a tent, provide dental exams and cleanings daily to Marines and sailors participating in Exercise Steel Knight.
“They brought us out here to get experience in the field,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kayla M. Seim, a dental technician with 1st Dental Battalion. “[Operating in the field] is a lot different. In a clinic, you have a sterile environment and it’s easier to disinfect. Here you have to plan for how many patients you are going to see and keep it as clean as possible.”
For many of the dental technicians, working on teeth in a field environment is new, but they are up to the challenges.
“I like being out in the field,” said Walkem, 19, a native of Covington, Tenn. “This is the first time I’ve seen dental out in the field, and everything is operational and seems to work pretty nice.”
The sailors plan on more of these kind of exercises in the future, and are look forward to building on their capabilities in an austere environment.
“It’s a good experience,” said Seim, 23, a native of Boscobel, Wisc. “I feel that every single sailor that is stationed with the Marines should experience a field operation.”