- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2014

Deployed? Don’t worry about the missed dentist appointment. The Army has discovered – and over the course of seven years, fine-tuned — a gum that helps the soldier in the field fight plaque, cut cavities and clean teeth.

America spends more than $100 billion a year on dental services, and the military said it can help lower what taxpayers pay for troops and families in this regard with its cost-cutting creation, The Army Times reported. But first and foremost, the peppermint-flavored gum, called Combat Gum, is aimed at keeping troops healthy and their mouths happy in combat and field-training situations.

“Oral health is essential to warriors on the battlefield and could potentially save the military countless hours and dollars in dental health,” said Col. Robert Hale, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and commander of the Army Institute of Surgical Research, in the Army Times report.

The gum doesn’t replace brushing or flossing, Col. Hale said. But it fights plaque and periodontal disease, and will soon be distributed to high-risk troops and those heading to the field with the instructions to chew for 20 minutes after each main meal. The aim is to make the gum available to all troops in the Army and eventually on an over-the-counter basis, Col. Hale said.

The gum currently costs about $2 a piece, but it’s ultimately expected to save the military millions of dollars in dental care over the years, the Army Times said. It was developed primarily by Kai Leung, a microbiologist for the dental and trauma research detachment, after he studied bacteria colonies akin to those that multiply in the mouth.

The military reports that more than 10 percent of disease-related injuries that lead to evacuation of soldiers is due to dental emergencies.

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