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Dental flight ensure Airmen have something to smile about

Staff Sgt. Yuxiong Liang, 36th Medical Operations Squadron dental lab technician, performs a crown fabrication May 11, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Dental lab technicians spend their days fabricating anything from crowns to dentures and athletic mouth guards to ensure the health and readiness of Andersen Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot/Released)

Staff Sgt. Yuxiong Liang, 36th Medical Operations Squadron dental lab technician, performs a crown fabrication May 11, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Dental lab technicians spend their days fabricating anything from crowns to dentures and athletic mouth guards to ensure the health and readiness of Andersen Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot/Released)

Staff Sgt. Yuxiong Liang, 36th Medical Operations Squadron dental lab technician, pours investment, or liquid stone, at a slow pace to let air out to ensure bubbles aren’t trapped in a final crown mold May 11, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The dental clinic here consists of three elements – support, clinical and a dental lab. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot/Released)

Staff Sgt. Yuxiong Liang, 36th Medical Operations Squadron dental lab technician, pours investment, or liquid stone, at a slow pace to let air out to ensure bubbles aren’t trapped in a final crown mold May 11, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The dental clinic here consists of three elements – support, clinical and a dental lab. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot/Released)

Capt. (Dr.) Nicole Catarino, 36th Medical Operations Squadron general dentist, performs a periodontal evaluation May 11, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. In addition to working on patient’s mouths, the dental flight also provides tips to Airmen to prevent additional visits to the dentists. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot/Released)

Capt. (Dr.) Nicole Catarino, 36th Medical Operations Squadron general dentist, performs a periodontal evaluation May 11, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. In addition to working on patient’s mouths, the dental flight also provides tips to Airmen to prevent additional visits to the dentists. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot/Released)

Capt. (Dr.) Nicole Catarino, 36th Medical Operations Squadron general dentist, grabs a tool during a scaling and root planing treatment May 11, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The team of 18 dentists and technicians work together to ensure every active duty member at Andersen AFB has a fresh smile. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot/Released)

Capt. (Dr.) Nicole Catarino, 36th Medical Operations Squadron general dentist, grabs a tool during a scaling and root planing treatment May 11, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The team of 18 dentists and technicians work together to ensure every active duty member at Andersen AFB has a fresh smile. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot/Released)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Whether it's the childhood memories of frightening sounds from someone in the next room or of seeing patients with pained looks and puffy faces from having their wisdom teeth pulled - the dental office isn't as scary as many may think.

The technicians and dentists of the 36th Medical Operations Squadron are there make sure patients leave with a clean and healthy mouth. 

"Our job is to keep people healthy, it's not to torture people," said Capt. (Dr.) Barrington Dykes, 36th MDOS general dentist.

In 2013, the 36th MDOS dental flight was recognized as Pacific Air Force's best small dental clinic of the year.

"The people who work in the Andersen AFB dental clinic make it the best small dental clinic in PACAF," said Master Sgt. Edmundo Cruz, 36th MDOS dental flight chief. "Each dental Airman here could go to another dental clinic and easily be their number one dental technician or dentist. The quality of our dental technicians is that good."

The team of 18 dentists and technicians work together to ensure every active-duty member at Andersen AFB has a fresh smile.

"We are focused on keeping everyone's readiness up," Dykes said. "The last thing we want is to have dental emergencies happen while someone is in a deployed location where they don't have the access to care."

The dental clinic here consists of three elements - support, clinical and a dental lab. 

Along with welcoming patients at the front desk, support technicians file and pull records and schedule annual dental exams. They also ensure the flight has enough items in stock for continuous treatment without interruption.

After all procedures, Andersen AFB central instrument processing (CIPC) Airmen sterilize all dental instruments as well as the rest of the 36th Medical Group's instruments, which can range from 80 to 100 instruments per month.

Tucked away in the back corner of the dental flight, dental lab technicians spend their days fabricating anything from crowns to dentures and athletic mouth guards.

Technicians falling under the clinical element assist endodontists, who perform root canals, and general dentists.

These technicians also have the opportunity to become prophylaxis technicians, who scale and polish teeth, or they can go to school to become registered hygienists. Once they become registered hygienists, they are licensed to clean teeth for service members and can continue to spruce up patient's smiles when they separate or retire. 

On top of maintaining patient's oral health, the dental flight also provides tips to Airmen to prevent additional visits to the dentists.

Tips for Airmen include brushing twice a day and swishing around water in mouth after eating or drinking to rinse off anything sitting on teeth.

"Try not to eat or drink after nightly brushing," Dykes said. "The goal is to brush your teeth then call it a day."

The experts also warn Airmen regularly about the harmful effects of tobacco use.

Andersen AFB has a high population of tobacco users, according to Senior Airman Zackary Mannino, 36th MDOS dental technician.

"Smoking and chewing tobacco can stain your teeth and can cause problems to your gums," Dykes said. "(Using tobacco) causes diseases that affect your gum tissue and some people can possibly lose some teeth."

The dental flight has a representative on-call 24/7 for dental emergencies, which can range from a chipped tooth to severe tooth pain. Depending on the scenario, the patient can be seen that night or the next morning. The dental flight can be reached after hours by calling 366-WELL(9355). 

"We are supporting the health of the base population," Dykes said. "Our goal is to keep everybody healthy and in fighting shape."