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386th EMDG Dental Clinic keeps service members focused on mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Daira Jackson
  • 386 AEW Public Affairs

When a service member experiences dental issues or pain, it becomes a distraction from the mission. The 386th Expeditionary Medical Group Dental Clinic offers a variety of dental services to keep members healthy and focused on the mission.

The two-member dental team, deployed from Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah, sees about 70 patients per month at the base dental clinic.

“The mission stops at that point because you're not able to take care of yourself and do your job. It's really important that members do their routine preventative care, like brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day and limiting snacking between meals, so that they can stay out of the dental chair,” said Tech. Sgt. Shannon Raaymakers, noncommissioned officer in charge of dental services, 386th EMDG.

Capt. Koech C. Bellion, a public health officer with the 386th EMDG says that having a dental clinic right on base saves a lot of time.

“I don’t have to spend hours looking for the same service off base,” said Bellion.

The dental clinic’s primary focus is urgent and emergent care for those who are in pain, have swelling or bleeding.

Dental clinic services include root canals and extractions, along with other emergency care for all members. Permanent party members will also receive annual exams and teeth cleanings.

“We can do a vast majority of most dental services. The only thing that we can't do here is implant care. We don't use sedation either,” said Raaymakers.

If there's anything serious that the dental clinic cannot take care of in theater, the service member will be referred to another dental clinic off base or Landstuhl, Germany for additional care.

“Our job is to keep people from having to redeploy. We don't want them to have to go to Germany—that increases their downtime. We are here to get them back to doing the mission,” said Lt. Col. Paula Morse, chief of dental services, 386th EMDG.

The clinic’s top services provided to patients have been root canals and tooth extractions. Raaymakers believes this could be because of a combination of people’s increased snacking habits and decreased dental hygiene.

“I think with people being home more often during COVID-19 people's snacking increased. When you're constantly exposing your mouth to carbohydrates, you're making your mouth susceptible to having issues. I do think that, potentially, COVID-19 could make people feel down and maybe they weren't as good about their [dental] hygiene,” said Raaymakers.

The 386th Dental Clinic also provides dental services for the Danish, Italian and Canadian coalition partners on base.

“They don't have as large of a footprint as U.S. Forces do. So dental is an ancillary service for our partners,” said Morse.

Morse and Raaymakers recommend service members see a dentist every year, as directed by their dentist, or if they feel they have a concern to address.

“Don't let problems linger. It's better to nip it in the bud early,” said Morse.

The dental professionals are on-call 24/7 only for emergencies. Regular office hours are Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments can be made in-person at the Medical Building or by calling Medical at DSN: 318-442-2273.

“Dr. Morse and Tech Sgt. Raaymakers were super gentle and caring. The in-between-service chit chats brought laughter and smiles. I didn’t feel like leaving. I’d definitely come back again. I felt very comfortable and well taken care of,” said Bellion.