Dental staff brushes up on readiness

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 51st Dental Squadron is home to 41 Airmen who ensure that the more than 5,000 service members serving at Osan have healthy mouths.

The squadron provides comprehensive dental care for eligible active-duty military personnel and command sponsored dependents. Services the office offers prevention including annual exams and cleanings, general dentistry, endodontics and oral surgery.

Tech. Sgt. Carmen Ellis, 51st DS support flight chief, said the unit is split into three flights: clinical, dental and support.

The clinical flight - dentists, dental technicians, prophylaxis technicians and hygienists - handles all of the patient care.

Dentists perform annual exams to assess a patient's overall oral health and develop a treatment plan, if needed. Dental technicians assist the dentists during their procedures, prophylaxis technicians provide annual cleanings, and hygienists provide preventative dental care and educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.

The dental laboratory flight fabricates fixed and removable dental prostheses. This may include individual crowns, hard night guards, interim removable partial dentures and retainers.

The support flight handles the administrative and business requirements for dental. The elements are records and receptions, instrument processing, radiology and dental logistics.

"Dental is an integral part of readiness that is used to determine an Airman's ability to deploy," Ellis said.

Airmen are split into four classes depending on the condition of their teeth.
Service members in class 1 are current with their dental treatment. Those in class 2 need a dental appointment to treat a minor condition.

"Members in class 1 and 2 are considered to be worldwide qualified and may be deployed," Ellis said.

Airmen in class 3 have a dental condition that is likely to cause a dental emergency within 12 months. Individuals in class 4 have not been seen at a dental clinic within a year and their oral health is unknown.

"These members are not considered worldwide deployable and they reflect adversely on their squadron's readiness status," Ellis said.

The Department of Defense's goal is to have 95 percent of personnel in class 1 and 2. Osan's dental patients are currently at 99 percent.

"Even though there is a high turnover rate of personnel assigned to this base, our squadron is still able to not only meet but exceed the Air Force goal," Ellis said. "The squadron has such a high success rate because we all work toward a common goal. We make our patients our priority."