It can be difficult for deployed Soldiers to get conventional dental treatment, but Army dentists at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, are testing a portable X-ray system that could make it easier.
“A lot of the dentists in [Afghanistan] are not working in a fixed facility. They don’t have the luxury of mounting an X-ray system to the wall, because they’re in a tent,” said COL Chris Evanov, a general dentist with the 257th Dental Company, which tested the system.
The Nomad Pro, an X-ray system that weighs 5½ pounds, captures digital X-ray images and doesn’t require a darkroom, allowing dentists to operate in remote environments.[raw][image align=”left” caption=”The Nomad Pro mobile X-ray system, similar to the one seen here, allows dentists to operate in remote environments. (Photo courtesy of Ashtel Dental.)” linkto=”/web/wp-content/uploads/nomadpro-big.png” linktype=”image”]”/web/wp-content/uploads/nomadpro-big.png” height=”167″
“I’ve been in the military for over 20 years and I was a little suspicious of the device, but it didn’t take more than a day or two for me to realize that this was great,” said Evanov.
During the testing, dentists are judging the Nomad Pro system on image quality, system weight, and durability.
“We’re trying to do what we can to get the best product here,” said MAJ Gina Adam, Medical Science and Technology Advisor for Field Assistance in Science and Technology (FAST). “We want to get the best medical materiel for the warfighter.”
FAST teams are part of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), headquartered at Fort Detrick, MD, partners with RDECOM to provide a medical officer and noncommissioned officer to the FAST teams to help with research, development, and acquisition questions that units have about their medical equipment.
The ability to X-ray Soldiers’ teeth is vital to providing dental treatment. With a digital image, dentists can almost instantly see the patient’s teeth and thus can determine what specific care the patient needs.
“The truth is, there are a lot of things we can’t see, and you can’t treat what you can’t see,” said Evanov. “You can open up your mouth and you might have all 32 of your teeth, but all I can see are your crowns. We don’t have that Superman vision.”[quote align=”right”]A lot of the dentists in [Afghanistan] are not working in a fixed facility. They don’t have the luxury of mounting an X-ray system to the wall, because they’re in a tent.[/quote]
Once all testing on a piece of medical equipment is complete and has been evaluated, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) within USAMRMC decides if the system meets the needs of the dentist and the Soldier and should be procured. The high level of satisfaction from the end users of the Nomad Pro has prompted USAMMA to order another 90 units for stock.
Several of the user surveys on the Nomad Pro inquired about or requested some type of holding mechanism, to address the inability to securely store the device when not in use. Working with the manufacturer, Aribex Inc., a vinyl pouch was developed and sent into theater to be used with the Nomad Pro. The pouch can be worn or secured to a wall or furniture. The Army is collecting feedback on this modification as well as on the system as a whole.
“It’s really exciting to think we’re doing something that will help improve the health care of the Soldiers,” said Adam.
- SPC JONATHAN THOMAS is with the 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.