NEWS | March 20, 2019

U.S., Japanese Military Dental Professionals Meet for 65th Tri-Service Dental Symposium in Tokyo

By Dustin Perry U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs

TOKYO, Japan -- Dental and orthodontic specialists from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the Japan Self-Defense Forces, recently learned about currently pressing topics in their field and shared best practices during the 65th Tri-Service Dental Symposium.

The event, held March 12 through 14 at the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo, featured keynote speakers from both the United States and Japan, exhibits on the latest dental tools and equipment, and was a chance for those in attendance to earn continuing education credits.

Col. Ryan Wong, commander of U.S. Army Dental Activity Japan at Camp Zama, Japan, helped coordinate the event and said he wanted this year's lectures to cover topics that military dentists might not necessarily encounter on a regular basis.

"Nowadays we have to operate in oftentimes a very ambiguous operating environment," said Wong. "We have to have a creative thought process. This year, I invited speakers to be able to provide lecture topics [that would] just stimulate their minds."

The opening keynote speaker was Dr. Philippe Hujoel, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Washington. Hujoel's three presentations dealt chiefly on the topic of understanding and utilizing the principles of evidence-based medicine, a practice wherein doctors optimize their decision-making by emphasizing the use of evidence from substantial research. Hujoel demonstrated this concept with a common example in the world of dentistry.

"If a patient is suffering from dental cavities a lot, it is key, from an evidence-based perspective, to first and foremost focus on sugar, because that's the prime reason that people get dental cavities," said Hujoel. "You want to make sure that, as a good dentist, you provide good information to a patient that will actually be able to help him or her to control the disease."

The focus on evidence-based medicine was an ideal way to open the symposium, said Air Force Col. Song Rhim, commander of the 374th Dental Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

"There are many different fields in dentistry, and it's good to see how all those different specialties come together to find a common goal, which to cure a disease and also to prevent [it]," said Rhim.

While the symposium is an opportunity to keep up to date on the latest issues and topics facing the dentistry field, Navy Cmdr. Thomas Berchtold, who also attended last year's event, said it also beneficial as a way for those in the military dental community to be able to network and share compare best practices across the services.

"I'm an orthodontist, so last year I was able to meet the orthodontists at Camp Zama," said Berchtold, the associate director of dental services at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan. "We were able to share ideas and we continued a collegial relationship where we share treatment techniques."

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Maj. Gen. Ryo Tsunoda, the newly appointed director of the Dental Corps and Oral Surgery Department at the JSDF Central Hospital, agreed, saying Japan's participation in the symposium would help to improve to quality of service JSDF dentists and orthodontists provide.

"This is a great opportunity for our Dental Corps to expand the knowledge and ideas on how to take care of [their] patients, as well as the methods of providing medical care, to include maintaining good health," said Tsunoda. "This would certainly contribute to the further development of the JGSDF."

Ultimately, Wong said, he hopes the symposium serves to create an ongoing dialogue among his peers--one that allows both the U.S. and Japanese military medical communities to work more closely together.

"I want [this event] to create a chance for all the dental professionals from the U.S. Armed Forces and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force to start talking and get a better understanding of each other," said Wong. "This way, we can further continue our bilateral relationship and partnership and collaboration."