Fort Leonard Wood Dental Officer On Rare Deployment
FORT LEONARD WOOD - Military dental officer Captain Cody Negrete is deployed, something few military dentists ever experience.
Negrete works in Djibouti, Africa, with the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion, a Medical Functional Specialty Team. He said he had expected to be attending mostly to soldiers, but has instead been going on humanitarian missions to teach good dental hygiene in area villages, according to a press release from Fort Leonard Wood.
Negrete said, "Here in Djibouti, they brush their teeth with a tree root. It is a Muslim country, so they are taught to do it before prayer five to six times a day.
"They actually have surprisingly fewer dental problems than you would expect," he said. "They have pretty simple diets which help, but the younger generations are being exposed to sodas and candy much more."
Negrete said younger people in the Djibouti area are very receptive to using toothbrushes.
"But they think toothpaste is poison," he added.
"The older generations are resistant to change, but it was really neat to see them supporting it for their younger generations," Negrete said.
He volunteered to deploy after treating so many military patients who sacrificed the comforts of home to do the same.
Negrete said he looks forward to returning home but is fortunate to have the opportunity to deploy. "The thing I like most about being here are the people I work with and meet every day," Negrete said. "I've gotten to work closely with all of the military branches, foreign governments and organizations, civilians and military. I've also been exposed to much more about the military profession than I would normally be as a dental officer."
According to Col. David Kryszak, Fort Leonard Wood's Dental Activity commander, dentists deploying is not common.
"Only 85 of 439, or 19.36 percent of Army Dentists have had the opportunity to deploy."