A word of mouth with the 934 AW's dental component

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Timothy Leddick
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Dentistry is a routine checkup that we are all familiar with, but many may not know how the practice might translate in the Air Force capacity.

However, dental professionals are integral to the medical readiness process of our Airmen.

The 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron dental component is composed of almost 10 dentists and dental assistants who all work closely together in order to manage and maintain medical readiness across the 934th Airlift Wing. The dentists work directly with the patient during oral exams to ensure they are deployment ready and to focus on conditions that may affect that readiness.

“The Air Force defines that as ‘any condition that could potentially result in an emergency within the next 12 months’ based on our judgment,” said Maj. Daniel Dahl, a 934 ASTS general dentist. “Large cavities, signs of infection, if you have a molar that’s been treated with a root canal – anything that could potentially create an emergent situation if you’re in a deployed location and don’t have good dental care available.”

Dental reservists attain the same training as dental specialists in the active service, but the workload differs within respective duty stations and service components. For reserve unit training assemblies, dental specialists dedicate one day out of the weekend to taking in patients that are due for any examinations, while the second day is for additional duties and training in order to maintain active status readiness themselves.

“When we’re on active status at a military treatment facility we would be performing dental treatments as well as exams,” said Dahl. “You would do a dental readiness classification every exam and you also create a treatment plan before executing that treatment for patients and members.”

The dental component would not function to its fullest without the aid and right-hand knowledge of the dental assistants. Where dentists identify disease and perform the majority of treatments, dental assistants’ primary tasking involves the administrative processes, the preparation, serviceability and handling of tools and reversible procedures such as X-rays, cleanings, polishings and sealants.

“We want to make sure patients aren’t neglecting their dental concerns,” said Master Sgt. Angela House, the 934 ASTS dental technician and noncommissioned officer in charge. “Things that happen inside your mouth can be indicators of what’s happening in your body. Keeping your oral health up can improve your overall health.”

The most important tool within the dental office is the connections made between professionals and patients. Being able to work closely and directly with other members emphasized the camaraderie between those in service.

“The joy is the people,” said House. “You get to see everybody on base, that’s fun! Everyone has to see dental at some point, so we do get to know everybody. The biggest joy is getting to participate in those relationships.”

The dental component is an essential workforce and connection building for Air Force mission readiness.

“We’re here to make sure you get the care you need and make sure if you gotta deploy you can do it safely,” said Dahl. “We’ll make sure you don’t have something that’ll take you out of the fight.”