Your dental health is far more important than many people realize.
The condition of your mouth, teeth, and gums impact your general health in several ways.
It’s why the U.S. Armed Forces have guidelines on dental health requirements for new members seeking to enlist in the military.
Learn more about military dental requirements and disqualifications below.
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Military Dental Requirements and Disqualifications
“Healthy mouth, healthy body” is the stance that everyone should take when it comes to oral health care.
Yet how many people do you know who regularly brush their teeth, floss, and attend routine checkups?
Your dental health provides clues about the overall health of your body.
The mouth is a haven for bacteria and the worst types of it can enter your digestive and respiratory tracts, contributing to disease.
Daily brushing and flossing go a long way in keeping bacteria in the mouth under control.
Keep in mind that:
- The mouth and body are synonymous with each other.
- Oral health shares common risk factors with other chronic diseases and health conditions.
- Poor oral health contributes to cardiovascular disease, endocarditis, pneumonia, as well as pregnancy and birth complications.
The U.S. Armed Forces feature dental requirements for people looking to enlist in the military.
You need to meet military dental requirements to avoid disqualification.
The military examines your health condition during MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station).
You may also receive a physical examination through DoDMERB (Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board).
The U.S. military relies on these medical screenings to determine the state of your health, including dental health.
The military examines you from head to toe to make sure you are “fit for service”.
List of Dental Disqualifications
Military dental requirements and disqualifications are put in place to make sure you are physically able to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Here is a list of dental disqualifications you need to be aware of for enlistment:
Braces (Orthodontic Appliances)
The military considers braces “orthodontic appliances”.
Unfortunately, individuals that currently have braces are not allowed to join the U.S. military.
However, recruits may still consider the Delayed Entry Program.
The military will not make you active duty though until braces or other orthodontic fixtures are removed entirely.
Retainer appliances are allowed in the military so long as active orthodontic treatment is satisfactorily completed.
A local military recruiter can provide more details about enlisting in the Delayed Entry Program while you complete orthodontist treatment such as braces.
The military disqualifies dental conditions that prevent you from chewing normally.
Congenital problems or other injuries that impact normal chewing need to get surgically repaired.
If that is not possible, the U.S. Armed Forces consider it a disqualifying health issue.
The good news is you can get a waiver if you have surgery for a chewing issue that is correctable.
Ask a local military recruiter for more information about the matter while pursuing enlistment.
Disease from Teeth Removal
Everyone loses teeth when they are young.
However, the military takes a different stance when it comes to adult teeth, especially injuries or diseases which caused teeth removal.
Anything that prohibits you from chewing normal food is a disqualifying dental health factor.
The military considers cases of dental implants following adult teeth removal differently.
It reviews each procedure differently yet makes sure the operation removed any potential complications down the road before granting a waiver.
Keep in mind that a waiver is not guaranteed.
It relies on approval from a military medical review board.
Insufficient Natural Health
The military deems “current insufficient natural healthy teeth” grounds for disqualification.
The disqualification extends to cover a lack of serviceable prosthesis that prevents adequate incision and mastication of a normal diet.
It also includes complex (multiple fixtures) dental implant systems with associated complications.
The Armed Forces do not enforce disqualifications related to cavities so long as the problem has been addressed, or will be addressed in the near future.
You just need to make sure all dental repairs like fixing cavities are treated before you are sworn into the military.
Lastly, the military accepts individuals going through endodontic care (root canals) through the Delayed Entry Program.
However, a health provider must present documentation to the Department of Defense explaining that endodontic treatment will get completed prior to becoming active duty.
Jaw Diseases or Tissues
Diseases in the jaw or connected tissues that prevent normal functioning are not approved in the military.
Jaw diseases that disqualify recruits include temporomandibular disorders and myofascial pain.
Unfortunately, temporomandibular disorders and myofascial pain are not waivable under current standards.
Severe malocclusion that interferes with normal mastication or requires regular treatment is disqualifying in the military.
The military extends its guidelines to include any malocclusion that impacts the relationship between the mandible and maxilla that prevents satisfactory future prosthodontic replacement.
The military does not appear to currently provide any waivers for malocclusion, either.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Dental health is a little confusing when the military references all these “big terms”.
What questions do you have about military dental requirements and disqualifications?
Can I have braces while serving in the military?
The military does not allow you to serve active duty with braces.
However, you can enlist in the Delayed Entry Program until you complete treatment.
The other option is to consider invisible braces such as Invisalign or Smile Direct.
Service members should consider invisible braces because the military will more than likely approve the form of dental treatment with a waiver.
Invisible aligners are not only approved during deployment they are considered safe.
The plastic aligners fit snuggly into your teeth and are BPA-free.
How are ‘bad teeth’ characterized?
Bad teeth are defined as “current insufficient natural healthy teeth” under military regulations.
It not only includes oral diseases like temporomandibular disorders and myofascial pain but also chewing problems and teeth removal caused by diseases.
Meanwhile, oral health problems like cavities are not considered “bad teeth” so long as the problem is being treated.
Additionally, inconveniences like bad breath do not fall under “current insufficient natural healthy teeth” military guidelines.
Can you join the military with dental implants?
The military reviews every dental health problem during MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station).
If dental implants treat a condition and the Department of Defense determines that it is no longer an issue you may receive a waiver.
However, any dental problem which “prevents adequate incision and mastication of a normal diet” like dental implant systems with related complications is disqualifying.
You might not know the severity of your dental implant implications until you complete a MEPS examination.
Can I join the military with cavities or a root canal?
Yes, you can join the military with cavities so long as they get treated prior to being sworn in as active-duty military.
The same is true of a history of previous cavities as long as they have been treated correctly.
Root canals, or “endodontic treatment”, is approved through the Delayed Entry Program.
It means that you can enlist, but you won’t become active duty until treatment for the root canal is finalized, like orthodontic treatment for braces.
Will the military fix my teeth?
The Armed Forces use a MEPS exam or DoDMERB to determine the condition of your mouth, teeth, and gums.
The military may provide funds for the treatment of oral health problems that are correctable.
However, you will have less control over your treatment plan since it is managed by the government.
Furthermore, the military will not pay for you to have braces while you are enlisted in the military.
A service branch may grant a waiver if you need braces, but it will prevent you from being deployed until the treatment is completed.
The only exception is invisible aligners like Smile Direct or Invisalign.
Surprisingly, the military does grant a waiver for invisible braces in most circumstances.
Why does the military pull out your wisdom teeth?
The military makes it a common practice to remove wisdom teeth during boot camp.
If the military deems that your wisdom teeth could lead to a future problem the government will remove the teeth during boot camp.
The U.S. Armed Forces prefer to have wisdom teeth removed during Basic Combat Training because it avoids future interruptions later on down the road.
Active-duty personnel that needs to get a waiver and receive leave for a health condition like removing wisdom teeth during deployment hampers his or her personal growth, as well as the rest of the unit.
Usually, the Department of Defense does not give you a choice in the matter, but if you have the option we recommend removing wisdom teeth during boot camp.
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Military dental requirements and disqualifications are set in place for your general well-being.
Dental health is critical to maintaining good overall health.
Consequently, the military has several dental issues such as braces and adult tooth removal which may disqualify you from the military, at least temporarily.
If you have more questions about military dental requirements and disqualifications, speak to a local military recruiter.