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Dental readiness improved for war fighters

When the 3rd Infantry Division returned home from Iraq with two-and-a-half times the number of cavities they had before deployment, COL Christine Inouye, U.S. Army, Reserve Component force health protection integrator and MAJ Georgia dela Cruz, U.S. Army, public health dental staff officer at the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine were convinced that dental readiness was a problem for the warfighters. Determination and research led the two to an innovative solution to combat tooth decay and improve readiness.

By providing overwhelming supporting data, Inouye and dela Cruz proposed a change to the contents of the meals, ready-to-eat (MREs), to the 2004 Joint Services Operational Rations Forum. Research showed that the gum in the MREs contribute to tooth decay. Inouye and dela Cruz suggested using gum made with an alternative sweetener Xylitol. Xylitol works by blocking the bacteria that causes cavities and also increases saliva flow, which helps neutralize any acids and provides calcium to repair any weakened areas of the teeth. Their recommendation was approved and as a result, MREs will soon contain gum with Xylitol.

"Deployed service members are at greater risk for cavities because of starchy foods, sugary drinks and infrequent tooth brushing," said dela Cruz. Xylitol is a safe and effective way to keep service members healthy while deployed. In addition, gum containing Xylitol can be purchased at any local store or commissary

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