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Team Mildenhall Dental Clinic: Bright smiles lead to mission success

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeremy Matis, 48th Dental Squadron general dentist, and Tech. Sgt. Andre Andrews, 48th DS dental technician, discuss a patient’s dental impressions at the RAF Mildenhall Dental Clinic, RAF Mildenhall, England, Dec. 3, 2018. The 48th DS, which is permanently based at RAF Lakenheath, consists of 108 personnel – dental officers, enlisted technicians, administrators, medical equipment technicians and other essential personnel.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeremy Matis, 48th Dental Squadron general dentist, and Tech. Sgt. Andre Andrews, 48th DS dental technician, discuss a patient’s dental impressions at the RAF Mildenhall Dental Clinic, RAF Mildenhall, England, Dec. 3, 2018. The 48th DS, which is permanently based at RAF Lakenheath, consists of 108 personnel – dental officers, enlisted technicians, administrators, medical equipment technicians and other essential personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Mykyta Ryzhkov, 48th Dental Squadron dental technician, forms dental impressions for a Team Mildenhall Airman at the RAF Mildenhall Dental Clinic, RAF Mildenhall, England, Dec. 3, 2018. The 48th DS consists of four flights – the dental clinic, dental support and dental laboratory on RAF Lakenheath and the dental clinic on RAF Mildenhall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Mykyta Ryzhkov, 48th Dental Squadron dental technician, forms dental impressions for a Team Mildenhall Airman at the RAF Mildenhall Dental Clinic, RAF Mildenhall, England, Dec. 3, 2018. The 48th DS consists of four flights – the dental clinic, dental support and dental laboratory on RAF Lakenheath and the dental clinic on RAF Mildenhall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Whether it comes to brushing teeth vigorously or flossing to ensure cavities do not take shape, dental hygiene is a critical component of the overall health of Team Mildenhall Airmen, and crucial to ensuring mission stoppage does not occur.

The 48th Dental Squadron dental clinic on RAF Mildenhall provides the necessary care for all active-duty personnel who always have the prospect of deployments, temporary duty assignments and any other actions asked of them, and being prepared in all components of health is of the utmost importance.

“Oral health is a huge part of the overall health of our Airmen,” said Master Sgt. Jesus Villarreal, RAF Mildenhall Dental Clinic flight chief. “It’s one of the key components we need to have in order. We have individuals deploying to areas where they may not have a readily available health care system, so it’s vital they are taken care of to complete the mission.”

The 48th DS, which is permanently based at RAF Lakenheath, England, consists of 108 personnel – dental officers, enlisted technicians, administrators, medical equipment technicians and other essential personnel. There are four flights consisting of the dental clinic, dental support and dental laboratory on RAF Lakenheath and the dental clinic on RAF Mildenhall.

“We’re all assigned to RAF Lakenheath, but as a satellite clinic on RAF Mildenhall, we’re able to complete our mission by keeping up with communications between bases, providing feedback to one another, and staying on top of everything and having a good pulse of what needs our Airmen have,” Villarreal said.

The day-to-day work at the clinic is not much different from what can be seen in a civilian dental office, Villarreal said, adding the mission never changes.

“Normally, we recall active-duty members for their annual examinations, cleanings and dental work,” Villarreal said. “If there is anything found during these appointments, it is our job to get them referred for the right type of care – fillings, root canals, extractions – you name it, we pretty much do it.”

To take care of dental emergencies, the clinic utilizes the triage system, which according to Villarreal, is very similar to showing up to the emergency room at any ordinary hospital.

“When you have a dental emergency, we want you to show up and let our technicians and doctors see what’s going on,” Villarreal said. “After an examination, our mission is to provide immediate care or schedule an appointment down the line so our Airmen are always up-to-date with their dental care.”

To ensure the triage system and other dental functions run smoothly, 48th DS members go under extensive on-the-job training and work on a rotational schedule.

“For our enlisted personnel, once they leave technical school, they then go through career development courses and training on every facet of the job,” said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Settle, 48th DS dental technician. “Our training plan ensures that Airmen rotate through running the front desk, clinical work and x-ray operations.”

Villarreal explained that the overall health of Airmen is of critical importance to make sure they are always ready to fight and provide support to any mission which comes their way. Dental health care is something that should never be overlooked.

“We want all members to be in dental class one or two,” Villarreal said. “The Air Force standard is 95 percent, while the 48th DS currently stands at 98 percent, so we want it to continue to climb. The only way this is possible is if Airmen know we are always available for them. It’s the small things people overlook, but think they are okay because we use our teeth every day.

“However, small things can turn into big issues, and this is what we want to avoid. Our mission at the 48th is to ensure total readiness of our Airmen through proper dental hygiene and care, and we won’t stop until the mission is complete.”