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What Is Navy Dentistry?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 17, 2024
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The term “navy dentistry” usually applies to any sort of dental practice or service that is sponsored by or housed within a national naval branch. A naval branch is usually a country’s sea-based defense arm and is considered a part of the military. Soldiers and defense officers usually make up the bulk of any navy’s ranks, but other professionals, including dentists, also play an important role. Most countries structure their navies to be all-inclusive, so that soldiers and their families can have access to everything on base or while deployed that they would have in civilian society.

Dentists typically enter the navy in one of two ways. They either sign on as students, which normally involves naval funding for studies, or they join as already-certified professionals. Starting ranks and salaries often differ depending on which of these two paths is taken, but the tasks and duties of each are usually about the same. Naval dentistry is not typically any different from civilian dentistry, except for the location and the clientele.

Navy dentists practice all branches of dentistry, from basic care to oral surgery, orthodontics, and dental research. The military will often pay for any of a dentist’s required training but typically requires a certain number of years of active service. For some, navy dentistry is a means to an education and a varied range of experiences that can later launch a career in private practice. Navy dentistry can also be itself a career.

The bulk of any navy dentistry team is dedicated to serving naval personnel. Nearly every naval base has a dentistry office where stationed soldiers and their families can receive care. These clinics and the services they provide are usually no different from those anywhere else, except that they are dedicated for navy personnel. Also, the dentists play dual roles as practitioners and uniformed officers in most cases.

Naval dentistry also has a role in deployments. When naval crews are sent out for long tours, a dentist is usually sent along as well. Dental offices are located on most navy ships around the world in order to provide on-going care to soldiers as they fight.

In some cases, navy dentistry may be focused on outreach. Not all navy tours involve combat; many are also concerned with humanitarian causes and bringing aid to devastated communities or impoverished nations. Dentists on these teams provide dental health education, basic care, and sometimes also oral surgery and corrective measures to people who may not have ready access to dependable health care. A navy dentist in this role is required to travel frequently, but in exchange often gets to see many remote parts of the world.

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