This post dives a little deeper into the topic of childhood obesity in relation to a country’s military preparedness.
Obviously, juvenile obesity too often develops into adult obesity. Another aspect is very much worth exploring. Obesity and poor dental health walk hand-in-hand. They have a reciprocal relationship. Each causes, and is caused by, the other.
Even when a tooth remains present in the mouth, a crack, cavity, or infection may render it useless, along with all the other teeth on that side. A person might go for years, doing all their chewing on the “good side,” which is not beneficial to the good teeth on the bad side, which do not get enough stimulation to keep their blood supply flowing properly. As time goes by, one-sided chewing can lead to disorder of the temporomandibular joint, and other jaw malfunctions.
A poor diet with a lot of sugar can cause teeth to fall out or to need removal. This in turn causes
more deplorable dietary habits like a preference for fizzy sweet beverages, yogurt, and ice cream. Many hyperpalatable, high-calorie foods are easy to ingest with minimal teeth. But it is very difficult to gain sustenance from the most health-retaining foods with painful or missing teeth.
Tooth loss does not favor the ingestion of most meats, for instance. It destroys the ability to bite into an apple or crunch a carrot. Lettuce is a struggle, and celery is impossible. Even if a recruit loses weight and stays fit, the damage to teeth remains and worsens. How does this impact the individual’s fitness for military service? If the enlisted person or officer is stationed in the field, doing an essential job, and an urgent medical condition arises so that they need to be med-evaced, that will divert considerable resources from the mission.
In the USA, candidates are ineligible for military service if they fail to meet certain educational standards, are involved in crime, or are physically unfit. Even more than a decade ago, Mission: Readiness announced that every year, about 15,000 potential recruits failed entrance physicals because of excess body fat.
Unfortunately, many young Americans who want to join cannot. Startling statistics released by the Pentagon show that 75 percent of young people ages 17 to 24 are currently unable to enlist in the United States military.
And, 27 of those percentage points are accounted for by overweight individuals. Others are rejected because of “other medical problems that would disqualify them even if they were to lose enough weight.” One of those others is unacceptable dental health. The report also mentioned that 20% of Army reservists arrived at their appointed mobilization sites with “dental conditions that made them non-deployable.” Difficulty working is of course the most serious case, but difficulty in relaxing or sleeping also impacts the person’s ability to do their job.
The military keeps very close track of the problems that interfere with accomplishing the mission, and sorts its human resources into four categories:
DRC 1 — do not require dental treatment or re-evaluation — worldwide deployable
DRC 2 — require nonurgent dental treatment that could wait at least a year — worldwide deployable.
DRC 3 — require urgent or emergent dental treatment — not worldwide deployable
DRC 4 — require periodic dental examinations; or dental classification is unknown — not worldwide deployable
The armed forces require annual “dental readiness” assessments, after which DRC3 and DRC4 conditions must be immediately corrected.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Ready, Willing, And Unable To Serve,” missionreadiness.org, 2009
Source: “Dental Classification Fitness and How it Relates to the Operational Force,” fdiworlddental.org, 09/21/21
Image by Army Medicine/CC BY 2.0