A fascination with teeth was just the beginning of a friendship between Gold Coast-raised Lieutenant Lisa Holliday and Able Seaman Dental Assistant Tyler Jones.
The pair make up the Royal Australian Navy dental healthcare unit onboard HMAS Adelaide, currently deployed as part of a Joint Task Group supporting Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2018 and Exercise RIMPAC 18.
They met in 2014 when Lieutenant Holliday was a Royal Australian Air Force dentist and Able Seaman Jones had just completed her initial dental assistant training.
Both grew up on the Gold Coast, with Able Seaman Jones attending Merrimac and Beaudesert High Schools and Lieutenant Holliday attending St Hilda’s School. They have worked together since deploying on Adelaide in February 2017.
“We work together all day, especially when we’re at sea, so we have to be pretty close,” Lieutenant Holliday said.
“Even when we’re at home, I’m always paired with a fleet dental assistant.”
Able Seaman Jones said she enjoyed meeting people of all ranks and rates from Australian and international fleets.
“I’m also really interested in the treatment we do, and watching how Lieutenant Holliday shapes a tooth,” she said.
“It sounds silly, but you need to have an eye for shaping a tooth and it’s really amazing to watch.”
The ship’s dental clinic differs from a land-based one, in that it must have everything stocked before the ship leaves, including patient files.
“Unless it’s a serious issue and we have to conduct a medical evacuation, the buck stops with me,” Lieutenant Holliday said.
“I’m the one who has to relieve a patient of pain and patch them up until they can seek specialist care.
This means the entire dental surgery is packed into a few boxes.
“If we don’t have something, we can’t just go out and get it, we need to improvise to make it work,” Able Seaman Jones said.
“There are so many small details, which go into making a trip go smoothly, but everything has come together really well for this deployment.”
They said having dental care onboard was critical to maintaining the health of the crew over long deployments.
“There aren’t many opportunities for our sailors to complete an annual dental check-up when they’re at sea for long periods of time,” Lieutenant Holliday said.
“Generally people change their personal routine while they’re at sea, which changes their oral hygiene practices.
“We can cover any extra treatments which are required, as well as those annual check-ups, which reduces the strain on our dental units back in Australia.”
Although Lieutenant Holliday and Able Seaman Jones miss the Gold Coast, they both enjoy the variety Navy offers, including their current deployment, which has made calls in ports throughout the Pacific.
More than 1,000 personnel deployed in the task group aboard HMA Ships Adelaide, Melbourne, Success and Toowoomba.