'Combat Gum' to fight soldier dental problems

Posted at: 01/21/2014 9:47 AM
By: Emily Baucum, WOAI


Photo: WOAI

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (WOAI) -- Chew on this: a piece of gum that could get rid of the harmful plaque that builds up on your teeth. Military doctors in San Antonio are working with experts around the country to make that possible.

If the gum does its job, it could revolutionize the dental industry and also solve a very costly problem inside war zones.

Scientists have spent seven years working inside a lab at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. They're developing the tiniest solution for something that's been a big toothache for the military.

"Quite honestly, we can't drill our way out of this problem," Col. Robert Hale said.

He says in the Army alone, about 40 percent of recruits enter the service with more than three cavities. Any necessary dental work is done before troops deploy.