VOLUME 33, NUMBER 29 THURSDAY, June 27, 2002

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Offering priority dental care to reservists
UB collaboration with U.S. Army may become model for units across U.S.

Contributing Editor

If the men and women of the U.S. Army's 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion depart for their next trouble spot with toothaches, it will be through no fault of the School of Dental Medicine.

The dental school is offering first-priority, at-cost dental services to the soldiers in the Tonawanda-based unit as it prepares for possible mobilization. The collaboration is the first such effort between a dental school and an Army Reserve special operations unit, and, if successful, could be used as a model for dental support to Reserve battalions across the country.

"Medical, and especially dental, problems are the No. One deployment stopper," said Major Timothy Zack, training and operations officer for the 402nd. "When soldiers in this unit are deployed, there isn't time to set up a dental appointment. If they have a bad tooth, it gets pulled because there is seldom time to get it treated. Our soldiers must be in the best possible health because they could be on-duty for many months. That's why this program is important."

Soldiers in Civil Affairs battalions—96 percent of whom are reservists—have a unique mission. They are the Army's on-site, non-combat experts: civil and electrical engineers, doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, immigration officers, masons, computer specialists, community liaisons and emergency-management specialists.

Deployed as small multidisciplinary teams, air-dropped if necessary, they work with civil authorities and civilian populations in the commander's area of operation to lessen the impact of military operations and provide aid to the population.

Getting the UB dental school involved with the 402nd. was the idea of Alan Laville, a UB German and Spanish major and staff sergeant in the unit. Interested in becoming a dentist, he got a work-study job in the dental school's Department of Periodontology. Laville brought his unit's situation to the attention of Sebastian Cianco, department chair, and Ciancio endorsed the project.

Working with Zack, Laville put together a PowerPoint presentation, briefed his unit and, when the project was approved by all parties, functioned as the liaison between UB and the 402nd. Maureen Donley, clinical assistant professor of restorative dentistry, is supervising the pilot program, which currently is providing dental care for 10-12 soldiers. The makers of Listerine mouthwash and of Total toothpaste, brushes and floss are donating products to the project.

"We expect 25-30 soldiers ultimately to take advantage of this opportunity," Zack said. "Soldiers who may have dental problems need to have quality work done now because they can't count on getting a quick dental appointment if we are mobilized. The dental school is giving priority to our soldiers over their other patients. We have nothing but praise for the project."