USS PELELIU, At Sea - Amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu's (LHA 5) dental staff push forward on deployment and raise awareness during Navy's Dental Health Month.
September is designated for this month to promote pressing issues for Sailors to stay healthy.
One of these immediate concerns is the consumption of energy drinks.
"Sailors [and Marines] are working long hours and are trying to stay awake," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Maria Pallares, from El Paso, Texas. "They consume these energy drinks with high sugar content, which is a concern. The over-consumption of these drinks is harming their teeth by eroding the enamel, making the conditions perfect for cavities to form."
Sugary, caffeinated drinks could not only cause cavities but more serious conditions as well.
"People think that the mouth is just a small portion of the body," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class George J. Busto, Peleliu's dental office leading petty officer. "In fact, many problems other than tooth problems can originate there, like diabetes or heart disease."
According to Busto, the lack of flossing and overuse of bleaching are two important dental habits that Sailors do.
"Flossing is always the biggest problem I see," said Busto. "People only want to floss when they can feel the food is stuck in their teeth, when they actually need to floss regularly. Cleanliness and hygiene are very important."
Additionally, Sailors who bleach their teeth have to stay committed to the program, said Busto. Smoking or drinking caffeinated drinks while bleaching can cause major problems down the road. Some of these problems including tooth sensitivity and tooth decay.
"Prevention is key," said Pallares. "It's better to go see a dental hygienist now, rather than a dentist later. Hygienists focus on prevention, while dentists fix complications."
Stopping cavities and other oral health complications are part of the job of Peleliu's dental staff. Educating Sailors about these issues is another part.
"My favorite part [of working in dental] would have to be all the success stories I've seen so far," said Pallares. "Patients come in with little to no education and poor hygiene habits, but I see progress by the next time they come in."
Peleliu is the flagship of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group currently underway on a Western Pacific deployment with amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.