Dentist, Army Reservist volunteers to serve overseas for 100 days

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- When you sign up for the military, you do so knowing you could be ordered overseas at any time. However, choosing to be deployed is a different story -- and that is just what Dr. Donald Gundlach did.

Dr. Gundlach is the regional clinic director for Dental Associates, overseeing clinics in Franklin, Sturtevant and Kenosha -- and he's also an Army soldier.

"When I first got in the Army, I would always joke around 'you know, we`re just dentists,' but then a friend of mine said 'hey, if you save this guy from having an abscess when he`s in the middle of Afghanistan, you`ve done your role,'" Dr. Gundlach told FOX6 News.

In November, Dr. Gundlach voluntarily deployed to Afghanistan.

"I thought that this would be a great chance for me to go over there and give them a little bit more of myself to help those guys out. I really didn`t know what to expect over there.  I mean, I didn`t know at all," Dr. Gundlach said.

Dr. Gundlach found himself in desert conditions, working long days with patients from around the world. However, the job itself was the same as in his civilian practice.

"The number one thing is we`re looking at the condition of the individual teeth. "We're looking for decay. We're also looking at his bite. We're making sure that the gums are in good shape -- that there's no signs of any kind of systematic disease," Dr. Gundlach said.

In Afghanistan, there was one big difference in Dr. Gundlach's day-to-day duties. Occasionally, his patients came from the four-legged world.

"When we were over there we did a number of root canals on dogs. I did several extractions, which is a whole different world on dogs than it is on humans and we didn`t have a lot of guidance. The vets that were there, the veterinarians, they didn`t have a lot of experience doing the dentistry," Dr. Grundlach said.

After roughly 100 days overseas, Dr. Grundlach is back serving patients in the Milwaukee area. He says the experience left him with more self-confidence and respect for our deployed military and appreciation for his wife.

"She was really great about it.  I mean, it took her a day or so to realize this was going to happen, and she understood my reasoning. I think it was much harder on her and she never said a negative thing to me about it. She just put on a happy face and dealt with it all.  She did really well," Dr. Grundlach said.