JULY 7, 2017, MEDITERRANEAN SEA (NNS) – With over 5,000 embarked personnel, the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) is essentially a floating city. Like any city, GHWB has to take care of its residents, including their teeth. That is where dental department comes in.
“Our job in this office is to get people out of pain so they can get back to their jobs,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Yordan Yordanov, assistant leading petty officer and maintenance supervisor for dental. “I don’t think there is any pain much worse than dental pain, because you really can’t do much to alleviate that except visit a dentist.”
Dental comprises a number of personnel, ranging from junior enlisted hospital corpsmen to a dentist and oral surgeon. Corpsmen must attend a special school to be a certified dental technician.
“I’m a dental corpsman,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Amanda Rodrigues, “That means I went to corps school like every other HM, but afterward, I had six weeks of dental training. Since I’m an HM, I could work up in main medical, as well. They always say, ‘You’re a corpsman first.'”
In many respects, GHWB’s dental office is identical to its civilian counterparts stateside. The office is equipped to accommodate almost any issue a patient may have.
“We have four general dentists and one oral surgeon,” said Lt. Matt Simon, a dentist aboard GHWB. “That’s a pretty good patient-todoctor ratio. But we’re never in short supply of things to do. There’s always a broken tooth to fix or someone in pain who needs help. We see everything your average small town dentist in America sees.”
Sometimes a patient even needs a fake tooth, crown or a veneer. Sailors in that situation need not fear: GHWB’s dental department has a lab where prosthetics are created, custom fit for the patient.
“My job is to provide prosthetics,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Erwin Diano, LPO and the department’s prosthetic technician. “I can also create nightguards if they grind their teeth at night. To make prosthetics, first the dentist takes an impression of the patient’s teeth, and then I use that impression to make a mold. I pour a special acrylic into the mold and make the prosthetics from that.”
Simon added that fillings are the most common job dental. He also offered a little-known tip to help Sailors better avoid tooth decay.
“If you drink anything acidic, like a pop or an energy drink, you should probably wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth rather than brushing right afterward,” said Simon. “It’s because the acid weakens the enamel, and when you brush your teeth, you’re actually brushing away the enamel. A lot of people get sensitive teeth just because they’ll brush too quickly after drinking acidic beverages.”
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tristan B. Lotz, USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs