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NEWS | July 16, 2013

Langley dental clinic offers crowning care

By By Airman 1st Class R. Alex Durbin 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs


This is the average number of teeth each adult must take care of every morning and evening, spending more than 70 days maintaining and cleaning teeth in a lifetime. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans spend an average of $1.8 billion on toothpaste and $775 million on floss each year.

With these statistics, dentistry is often perceived as primarily focused on teeth, it is not limited strictly to this. Dentistry is the branch of medicine involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the mouth, maxillofacial area and adjacent structures. It studies their impact on the human body, and is widely considered necessary for complete overall health.

To ensure each Airman is as healthy as possible and mission ready, the 633rd Dental Squadron clinic at Langley Air Force Base, Va., is there to help.

The squadron is comprised of four flights totaling 25 dentists and 60 ancillary staff that provide a range of services, including general dentistry, prosthodontics, periodontics, orthodontics, endodontics and oral and maxillofacial surgery.

"The clinic is here to provide dental care for our active-duty Airmen," said U.S. Air Force Dr. (Col.) Donald Sedberry, 633rd Dental Squadron commander. "It is important to ensure our Airmen are ready to deploy because dental issues can take Airmen out of the fight - and possibly put them in harm's way."

Although it may be easily overlooked, dental health can play a large role in a Service member's health and career.

According to the CDC, 23.7 percent of adults between the ages of 20 to 64 have untreated cavities. Most are avoidable, and the clinic recommends Service members brush and floss twice daily and decrease snacking and sipping acidic drinks such as energy drinks and soda.

In case things go wrong, the clinic provides most care in-house and does not refer patients to off-base care providers, saving them time and money, said Sedberry.

This also provides a unique setting for dental technicians, as they work in rotations to keep their skills sharp and learn a large selection of specialty care to assist the 3,100 patients the clinic sees monthly.

"Langley is a large clinic, so technicians get exposed to different areas," said Tech. Sgt. Rudy Grajales, 633rd DS technician. "This rotation makes us versatile, and able to provide a continuity of care for our patients."

As part of an initiative to improve patient care, the clinic recently completed renovations which included new patient rooms and state-of-the-art tools, including silent electric hand tools and dental lasers. The tools are aimed at increasing patient comfort. The laser reduces post-surgery pain and healing time.

"These renovations let us provide better care for our patients by offering a wide range of specialty care under one roof," said Dr. (Col.) Thaddeus Chamberlain, 633rd DS deputy commander. "There is nothing available in the private sector that we cannot provide here at Langley."

Along with the clinic's renovations and efforts to streamline and improve patient care, the clinic's oral surgery section was granted its own dedicated space in U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley last fall.

The clinic boasts two oral and maxillofacial surgeons along with technicians who treat diseases, injuries and defects of the head, neck, face, jaw, and the hard and soft tissues of the mouth and face regions.

Although the majority of cases surgeons see are wisdom tooth extractions or dental implants, the clinic is equipped to perform corrective jaw surgery, sleep apnea treatment and trauma care.

"The hospital is making a great effort to ensure our surgeons have everything they need to properly care for our patients," said Dr. (Lt. Col.) Marshall Humes, 633rd DS oral and maxillofacial surgeon. "Our equipment and rooms are designed specifically for patient safety -- because that is our number one priority."

Humes said the oral surgeons benefit greatly by having the ability to take advantage of the hospital's unique environment with fellow surgical and specialty care providers within arm's reach.

"It's helpful to have the ability to walk down the hall to consult my medical colleagues," he said. "[The multispecialty clinic] affords medical professionals the ability to call on colleagues in other sub-specialties to provide personal, comprehensive care for each patient."

As well as providing care for patients, the clinic also serves as gateway to future Air Force dental-care providers, as it is one of only 13 squadrons Air Force-wide that has a residency program for dentists.

The residency program is a one-year-long training process to give recently graduated dentists hands-on training in the multiple specialties the Langley clinic provides.

Not only does the program provide new military dentists medical training, it teaches them what it means to be an Airman.

"We train our residents not only in dentistry, but how to be an Air Force officer. Their time spent at Langley lays the ground work for their military and medical career," said Dr. (Col.) Joseph Muhlbauer, 633rd DS dental residency flight commander. "In the long run, these residents will provide a greater skill set and improve the Air Force."