Robins Dentists keep Airmen fit to fight

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • Robins Public Affairs

Maintaining lethality and readiness is a mindset ingrained into Airmen across the Air Force.

Part of being fit to fight involves ensuring an Airman’s dental health is top notch.

“Being mindful and taking care of your oral health are very important to a person being combat ready,” said Dr. (Capt.) Laharee Parikh, 78th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron dentist. “When it comes to dental care, people tend to neglect it, because when we think about healthcare we think about other parts of our body. We put away the fact that our mouth is super important. It’s the entryway into your body. It’s where we eat, breathe and talk.”

Parikh said if you want to take care of your body, start with your mouth.

“People wait until the last minute to address their problems because they may have dental anxiety, distrust or they just don’t want to take the time to take care of themselves,” she continued. “You don’t want to be deployed with a tooth bothering you and you have a serious infection. An infection can travel and it can compromise your airway or even your heart.”

An example of an infection is endocarditis. It is an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves. It occurs when bacteria or other germs from your mouth spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.

Airman 1st Class Lia Uribe, 78th OMRS dental technician, said good daily oral hygiene can reduce bacteria.

“Daily brushing and flossing helps to keep germs and bacteria under control,’’ said Uribe. “It’s important to brush twice a day for at least two minutes and floss after meals.”

Every year, an overall dental checkup is required before each deployment.

“We are checking for things like, tooth decay, gum disease, active infections or cavities that may need to be treated and filled,” Parihk said. “You don’t want to be deployed in pain or with a condition that could lead to problems.”

According to Parikh, stress is a condition that can also negatively impact a person’s health.

“We treat a lot of teeth grinders and jaw clinchers, which is usually connected to stress,” she said. “We prescribe lots of mouth guards in order to protect the patient’s teeth.  

“Airmen may be worried about passing physical training, making rank or worried about something subconsciously, which leads them to grind or clinch. Coming here helps them realize other issues they may need to address in their lives,” Parikh said.

Both Parikh and Uribe are new members of Teams Robins. They came aboard in the spring of 2021. The pair joins a long legacy of dental care providers at Robins.

Robins’ dental services date back to April 1943.

Currently, the Dental Flight consists of 27 members, which includes six dentists.

For Uribe being a vital part of Airmen readiness is an honor.

“A lot of people don’t like coming to the dentist,” she said. “So, I like to do my part to put them at ease while making sure they are mission ready.”