Barksdale AFB, LA (KSLA) - Airmen in the dental flight are often referred to as the unsung heroes, aiding airmen of every rank in the best oral habits.
“We ensure that they’re ready to deploy or work," explained Air Force Col. Joanna McPherson, 2nd Dental Squadron Commander. “Historically dental caries, so cavities was the number one reason for emergency visits to the clinics in deployed locations so that has been over the last 20 years our goal to get people and good oral health so that they’re not in pain while they’re out there.”
The dental flight focuses mainly on preventative actions to aid patients in executing proper dental hygiene so they won’t have issues down the road. Air Force dentists are trained to detect and treat issues before they become a problem, keeping our airmen deployable at a moments notice.
“If there’s any issues with pain or infection, those are our priorities. We’ll do their routine treatment, but if they have anything that we think is going to be a problem, if they were to be without any type of dental care available we make that a priority.”
Unlike in the civilian world, unless there’s an issue, airmen typically only see the dentist once a year.
“There’s not a recommendation from the American Dental Association that you get a cleaning every six months, it is what insurance will cover and will pay for the civilian practice, but for us we tailor the treatment to the needs of the patient; so if we have a patient that’s very clean, that really doesn’t need our help, we’ll see them every year.”
Barksdale is also one of ten Air Force bases to offer a dental residency program.
“This is where they kind of get their feet wet. In a civilian practice they will graduate dental school and maybe go to be an associate at a civilian practice or that division of whoever owns the practice or group practice," explained Col. McPherson, "These dentist will come here and learn Air Force guidelines and how we treat our patients which is slightly different from civilian practice.”
The one year program trains four to six dentists in a variety of specialty areas including Orthodontics, Endodontics, Prosthodontics and Oral and Maxillofacial surgery.
“We train general dentist to become more comprehensive dentists," she said, "They receive an Advanced Education in General Dentistry degree. It’s affiliated with the Uniform Services University.”
Bottom line, Air Force dentists play a key role in maintaining the overall health of those on the front lines, allowing them to stay healthier longer.
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