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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
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Saluting Military Dentistry on Veterans Day

Nov 11, 2014

By Dean George

Today on this 96th Veteran’s Day Agent Straight-Talk wants to call our readers to full attention and have you join us in giving a crisp, heartfelt salute to all those who have served and are serving today in our nation’s Armed Forces.

Veterans, we appreciate your service, your sacrifice and your courage in protecting America and her citizens at home and abroad.  

Veterans Day Tribute

Earlier this year, Dental Wire reported on “combat gum” and the “toof-brush” designed by a Special Forces Medic Staff Sergeant serving in Afghanistan. In September, Agent Straight-Talk reported on the first known time in American history when dental forensics was used to identify a fallen soldier.  Hint: It was before America’s founding and the name of the “dentist” should be familiar.

Today we want to share some military dental milestones, but first, how many of you know the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day?

For any wise guys thinking “six months,” let me remind you: KP duty is a walk in the park compared to what dentists and dental hygienists often do, and we know a lot of them that would welcome your help as a community service volunteer – or non-volunteer, if you get my 'draft.'

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May and honors all military service members who died in service to the country or as a result of injuries received during battle.

Veteran’s Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, honors all military veterans both living and dead. Originally intended as a tribute to World War I veterans that gave their lives, the first Armistice Day was observed on November 11, 1918.

At the urging of several veteran organizations in 1954, the word “veterans” was swapped for “armistice” and today honors American veterans of all wars.  Other than a four-year period from 1971 to 1975, Veteran’s Day has been observed on November 11 for its entire history.

Atten-hut! Below are some notable moments in military dental history. There may be a snap inspection at the conclusion of today’s post, so pay attention.

Army Dental Corps On March 3, 1911 President William Howard Taft signed into law Public Law No. 453 creating the U.S. Army Dental Corps. Not only was this the first dental corps in any of the military branches, it had a significant impact on civilian dentistry as a profession.

The federal government’s action served as official recognition of dentistry as a medical profession. Until then, “dentistry,” “dental profession” and “dental surgeon” had no legal recognition. Soon, civilian dentists began lobbying for pay comparable to military dentists.

Navy Dental Corps In post-World War II Japan, naval dentist George Foster and Jack Mallory were tasked with making an upper denture for Japanese General Hideki Tojo pending his war crime trials.

Military procedure at the time required those wearing dental appliances to have their name, rank, and serial number engraved on the appliance. Initially reluctant, Foster and Mallory gave in to hospital staffers’ request that they add, “Remember Pearl Harbor” on Tojo’s denture – in Morris Code.

When Armed Forces radio in Tokyo got hold of the story through the wire services, the two dentists knew their little denture prank would certainly come back to bite them. Telling Tojo the denture needed cleaning, the pair ground out the message before being discovered. The bridge mold with the Pearl Harbor message is now on display at the Navy Dental Corps Historical Museum in Bethesda, Maryland.

Military Dentistry Roots The American Dental Association (ADA) adopted a resolution at its first convention in 1860 to support the appointment of dental officers for the Army and Navy. Unfortunately the effort was thwarted and the new organization was soon jeopardized when the Southern Dental Association separated from the ADA and aligned with the Confederacy during the Civil War. The ADA maintained its ties with the Union minus their cousins from the South.

The two groups remained separate until 1897 when they reunited as the National Dental Association (NDA) before reclaiming the ADA moniker in 1922.

Dentist, Naval Officer, Beauty Queen Lieutenant Corinne Devin of the United States Navy Dental Corps comes from a long line of military service.  Her dad was a Navy dentist for 20 years. Her uncle served in the Coast Guard and her grandfather was a Marine in World War II.

While stationed at Japan’s United States Naval Hospital Yokosuka where she remains today, Lt. Devin set a new family benchmark: Ms. United States 2012 and later Mrs. Galaxy 2014.

The navy lieutenant who was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Al Asad, Iraq in 2009 began competing in beauty pageants during her second year of dental school after one of the contestants said she could never win. Little did that contestant know that like John Paul Jones, the father of the American Navy, apparently Ms. Devin had not begun to fight!

Thanks for reading today’s tribute to the men and women of our Armed Forces. If you haven’t shaken a vet’s hand today, what are you waiting for? And if you haven’t checked to see how much we can save you on dental coverage, click here.

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