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Army Dental Research?

Even if you have been in the Army for a while, there is a place you've probably never heard of associated with dental; it is the United States Army Dental & Trauma Research Detachment (USADTRD).

The USADTRD is a small detachment of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research of Silver Spring, Md. The United States Army Dental & Trauma Research Detachment is located 36 miles north of Chicago, nestled away in the Great Lakes Training Center's old hospital. The Detachment shares the building and is part of a Tri-Service community with the sister services; the Navy's Institute of Dental and Biomedical Research and the Air Force's Detachment 1, Dental Evaluation and Consultation Service (DECS). Although not widely known, we are making improvements and advances within the dental community with the goal of helping the dental readiness of U.S. Army soldiers and facilitating their dental treatment in deployed environments. Our dental assistants have a hand in everything from testing blood, to evaluating saliva, to manipulating materials. These dental assistants may not have been trained for the particular demanding tasks of laboratory technicians, but like true soldiers, have adapted and accepted their mission. They have traded in their high-speed evacuation tubes and now operate extremely complex equipment such as HPLC, GC-MS, NMR and SEM. The unit itself has three separate departments to which dental assistants are assigned: Chemistry, Dental Materials, and Microbiology. Each department accomplishes its own experiments and protocols that are pieces to a puzzle. Eventually these pieces will fit together and contribute to the unit's overall success by its contributions to the war fighter.

The Dental Materials Department consists of a dental assistant (68E), SPC Kristen Raposo, and a dental laboratory technician (68EN5), SGT Anthony Bush. They are currently working on a protocol titled: Testing of Pro-Visual Restorative Materials. This initiative will establish formulations and mechanisms to improve the physical and mechanical properties of polymer bases and ceramic materials. These materials will be used in association with individual soldier protection, specifically the development of the antiballistic face shield. The Dental Materials Department also works with highly sensitive industrial machinery that performs fatigue testing on titanium discs in collaboration with a separate protocol in the Microbiology Department. Along with industrial polymers and ceramics, the department is researching dental resins. This initiative will improve the durability of resins for use for soldiers in a field environment, to reduce the number of failures and retreatments necessary.

Another department where a dental assistant is assigned is the Chemistry Department. SPC Andrew Halttunen, a trained dental laboratory technician (68EN5), recently began working on a blood platelet protocol that involves freeze drying blood platelets. He works exclusively with a Principle Investigator (PI) Biochemist Officer (71B) on The Use of Freeze-Dried Platelets (FDP) as a Topical Wound Healing Agent. This initiative is an effort to assess the healing and hemostatic capacity of FDP using a dermal animal model for wound healing. This model will help determine whether the FDP will last incessantly in a field environment and can be used for injured soldiers in a far-forward location to promote hemostasis and facilitate improved wound healing. He is diligent in preparing and performing experiments as well as keeping his findings meticulously in an administrative laboratory notebook. This protocol is a two-year study and many of his findings will contribute to the methodology future medics will employ in treating immediate medical injuries on the battlefield. The ultimate goal is for an FDP product to be incorporated into several types of bandages that will aid in the hemorrhage control and wound healing process for injured soldiers.

Lastly, SPC Tina Campbell is assigned to the Microbiology Department. In addition to working in Microbiology, SPC Campbell works in a combined effort with the Dental Materials Department to test the adherence of bacteria to dental materials and dental surfaces. She is currently assisting in testing Candida albicans effects on gingival tissue. This protocol tests the effects of microbial growth on gingival tissue and tissues in close proximity to contaminated denture material. Previously, she has worked on the testing of the efficacy of KSL-W (an antimicrobial peptide) against oral biofilms. Over the past two years SPC Campbell has been involved in the formulation of a chewing gum that will reduce bacterial growth in the oral cavity and will benefit all Soldiers, especially the ones who cannot brush on a regular basis. The U.S. Army anti-plaque gum formulation protocol is not quite ready to market a product, but there are high hopes of eventually replacing the current chewing gum in Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) that currently are eaten by soldiers in a field and on combat deployments. Even though this chewing gum will be a significant stop-gap measure in the short term prevention of dental disease, it still does not replace the importance of brushing and flossing.

Looking around and finding dental assistants side by side with researchers is quite novel. Even though they may not be chairside assisting dentists, they all have acquired new experiences that have tremendously improved their skill sets. Many of the skills have aided in the study of science for the U.S. Army. Without the contributions of the dental assistants at USADTRD the mission could not be accomplished.

By SPC Tina Campbell Edited by SFC Vern Campigotto
COPYRIGHT 2006 American Dental Assistants Association
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Title Annotation:The Army Goes Rolling Along...
Author:Campbell, Tina
Publication:The Dental Assistant
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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