The military has strict requirements for physical and psychological fitness to qualify for enlistment. It might surprise you to find out that oral health is a huge factor in one’s ability to qualify for enlistment, but it shouldn’t.
A soldier who is deployed overseas to fight in a physically taxing war, where their own and others’ lives are at stake cannot afford to be distracted by toothaches, decay, or other related oral health problems. They can also not afford soldiers needing to be whisked away for major dental work.
This is why the U.S armed forces screen people for oral health problems. Having teeth in poor condition disqualifies someone from joining the military because it is a giant liability and has caused serious problems in the past.
The Denture Dozen
There is a notorious story about a group of men known who were deployed to fight in active duty in Iraq, known as the “denture dozen.” They had such significant issues with their teeth that they had to be relieved from active duty. Their teeth were in such poor condition that they could barely be held in their mouths.
Even worse, it was discovered that this was a widespread problem. During the Iraq war, 30% of the 4500 active duty guardsmen had severe dental issues that deemed them unfit to travel overseas. In the army, 20% of citizen soldiers presented with serious dental problems that prevented them from being deployed.
Dental Disqualifications in the Military
The biggest factor taken into consideration when it comes to oral health and qualifying for military enlistment is your ability to chew. Many oral health conditions that disqualify you from enlistment are because they significantly impact your ability to effectively chew your food and eat a normal diet.
If you have no active issues with your teeth but have lost 8 teeth in the past, then you will not be able to enlist in the military, because this suggests that your ability to eat a normal diet will be greatly impeded on and you may be at increased risk for dental decay.
The following are disqualifying conditions for military enlistment:
- Active cavities
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
- Orthodontic appliances (braces
- Myofascial pain
- Severe malocclusion
- Missing teeth
- Anything that impacts your ability to chew
- Insufficient natural healthy teeth
- Undergoing corrective procedures
What Isn’t A Disqualification For Enlistment
There are some scenarios where compromised teeth will not disqualify you from enlistment. For example, you can not join the military if you currently have braces, but you can enlist in the delayed entry program and join once you have had the braces removed. Retainers will also not prohibit you from enlistment.
If you have cavities, you must get them filled before being sworn into the military. If you need a root canal, you can still join the military through the delayed entry program. Bad breath is not considered grounds for insufficiently healthy teeth so this will not impact your ability to join the military.
Don’t Let Your Dental Health Slip
Undergoing active corrective treatments like veneers or dental implants will prevent you from joining the military, but you may be able to join through the delayed entry program. Certain teeth conditions will not bar you from entry into the military if you have signed a waiver.
While the military does offer dentistry services, there are still strict standards on oral health to prevent the need for excessive dental treatment during active duty and all of the liabilities that come along with tooth pain, infection, and inability to eat properly.
Regular teeth cleanings and checkups are the best preventative measure you can take to ensure you have good oral health and hygiene. This prevents the likelihood of tooth decay, the buildup of plaque and tartar, gum disease, and many other issues that negatively affect your teeth and gums.