Submitted by: Bob Kwiecinski
I entered the Air Force during the peak buildup of the Vietnam War in 1965. I attended Tech School at Lowry AFB and I was undergoing some dental work at the Lowry Dental Clinic. .In January 1966 I was sitting in a dental chair while a young Air Force dentist was filling one of my upper teeth. A high ranking dentist or commander walked in and ordered the dentist to stop all dental work on me and to tell me to come back the next day to have all my upper teeth removed! He gave me no explanation why this was necessary. I had several cavities and the only missing teeth I had were some molars. I came in the next morning as ordered and they removed all my upper teeth. I didn't even receive a duty excuse and had to attend my afternoon classes! That night the chow hall had steak too! Needless to say I had to painstakingly wait about six weeks to receive my upper denture. Very embarrassing time period for me!
This experience has haunted me for many years. Many times I told my story to my family dentists as they wondered why and how did the Air Force remove my upper teeth, because they could see my lower teeth (just two wisdom teeth missing) were in great shape for a 71-year-old man.
Just recently I saw an older dentist who was a Navy dentist at Camp Pendleton during the Vietnam War. He listened to my story and with passion he apologized, saluted me and shook my hand. He said he remembers many horror stories like mine. The underlying reasons were that base dental facilities and staffing were overwhelmed by the extremely large numbers of troops undergoing training during the Vietnam War buildup, and as a result in many cases removing teeth (unnecessarily) was the procedure of their choice. Does any other veteran during this era have a similar experience?
About the author:
I am a retired Air Force enlisted.