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380AEW Article

Al Dhafra Dental Team Keeps Focus on Mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chelsea E. FitzPatrick
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Tucked away in the corner of the 380th Expeditionary Medical Group at Al Dhafra Air Base, the dental clinic quietly engaged with more than 100 Airmen and Soldiers in November 2021, keeping those warfighting professionals fit to fight.

“We are dealing with trauma cases, where someone gets hit in the face, falls and impacts their mouth, sporting accidents from the gym,” said Tech. Sgt. Tiffani Lawter, the clinic’s lone dental assistant.

On Thanksgiving Day, she was standing in line at the base Dining Facility, about to dig in to a holiday meal, when she received a text recall back to the clinic. An ADAB Soldier had taken a hit to the face in the gym and would end up needing two teeth extracted and stitches on his face.

“I came running over to respond to the call,” she explained. “When that happens, you know you just put your personal thoughts aside and you get to work to support your patient.”

Maj (Dr.) E.Y. Masunaga, who usually practices as a pediatric craniofacial specialist, attends to all of the oral and maxillofacial needs at the 380th EMDG. He said Lawter has been a star performer, maintaining superior oral healthcare for all active duty members and supporting clinical operations at the highest levels.

“She’s excellent in managing our patients, preparing for surgical procedures, and a quick learner. She spearheads central sterilization for the EMDG, remodeled the lab, and will have a positive impact for future rotations,” Masunaga said.

In November, the dental team produced over 40,000 units of care as measured by the Air Force – about 13,000 more than any previous dental team in the past five years.

That’s keeping Lawter busy, but she said she appreciates that as it makes her days fly by. Lawter is forward deployed from the 131st Bomb Wing in the Missouri Air National Guard. While deployed, she’s also taking graduate course work with the goal toward eventually earning a master’s in business administration.

“Our number one priority is to help the patient get back to work and accomplish the mission,” Lawter said.