Aims: To evaluate the nature of tooth-related morbidity in military personnel deployed on Operation Herrick and to compare the management of dental emergencies to that in non-deployed personnel.
Method: Data were collected prospectively for UK Service personnel on Operation Herrick (OpH) during an 18-month period and measured against prospectively collected 'home base' (HB) control data.
Results: Molar teeth were responsible for 64.1% (2,089/3,259) of presentations on OpH and 69.5% (323/467) at HB, causing 81.4% (622/764) of cases of pain lasting for >60 minutes and/or waking the patient on OpH and 86.0% (129/150) at HB. Third molars were responsible for 48.3% and 43.3% of such cases, respectively, and first molars 20.7% and 26.7%. The ratio of temporary to definitive restorations was 0.42 at HB compared with 0.18 on OpH (P <0.001). Antibiotics were prescribed in 5.7% of all cases of pulpitis /periapical infection on OpH and 7.9% at HB. A third molar causing pericoronitis was 2.4 times more likely to be extracted on OpH than at HB (27.4% cf 11.6%).
Conclusions: A more definitive approach to management is evident on deployment, reflecting the effort to conclusively treat immediately. To maintain this standard of care it is vital that military dental surgeons continue to be skilled in minor oral surgery.