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Dental exams become field duty.

Dental assistants, hygienists and dentists from the 673rd Medical Company took to the field last week to help ready more than 800 soldiers for their upcoming deployment. While doing so, they used a tent and a conference room filled with field equipment to train for the possibility of their own deployment.

1st Sgt. Earl Senter said the tent and the equipment set up at the 62nd Medical Brigade headquarters site is what the unit would take on deployments. "We have set up our dental personnel in the tent with all of their equipment and a sterilization room, and they are working on 62nd Medical Brigade soldiers in here." At the second site, Senter said the 673rd was providing basic dental exams to soldiers from 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, to help them get ready for their deployment later this year. "We're using this opportunity to practice our skills in a field environment while we provide a much-needed service to soldiers in 3rd Brigade," Senter said.

"The brigade soldiers' priority is training, so it's hard for them to get to the dentist office. So, we come to them and set up at their sites, assist their dentists and work our way through the soldiers. The goal is to get everyone in shape before they deploy."

Senter stressed how important good dental health was to everyone, but in particular to soldiers in a combat environment. "If you have a toothache, it's hard enough just to concentrate, much less have to pay attention while you are on patrol," he said.

"Getting these soldiers through our exams and into the DENTAC is definitely an operational readiness issue." Senter said that doing 3rd Brigade's exams also provided the 673rd dental personnel an excellent opportunity to develop new leaders and to train on fairly new equipment.

Spc. Jai-san Williams, the NCO in charge of the soldiers set up in the 296th Brigade Support Battalion conference room, directed patients to stations, aided assistants with their jobs and generally kept the room running efficiently.

Williams said, "We're here finding out what these soldiers need done, so they can call the DENTAC to set up an appointment. Our unit doing these exams takes a load off the DENTAC. Now, they can just do the work the soldiers need." He added that the assistants working at various stations in the room were well-versed in all of the other stations as well.

"These soldiers are dental assistants and they do the paperwork, shoot X-rays, and sterilize instruments," he said. "During this training, we're rotating through the stations to make sure we stay current on all of them."

They are all current with the X-ray equipment, as Sgt. Sanjay Nand taught his fellow dental assistants how to run the digital X-ray camera and accompanying computers that the unit received last year. During the field exercise, he taught two new soldiers how to use it. The soldiers, one from 1 st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, and one from the 520th Medical Company, were assisting the 673rd to get more training.

"This equipment is great for the field, as you don't need chemicals to develop the X-rays. You just shoot a digital X-ray, send it to the computer for the dentist, and put copies on a CD to put in the soldiers' records," Nand said. "We got eight cases of it to take with us. It's also safer, as you need the least bit of radiation to make it work." Pfc. Justin Datema, Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, was glad to get through the X-rays and get to his exam.

"I'm here to see what I need to get done before I deploy," Datema said. "Then, I'm going to get everything possible done."

Tammy L. Reed Fort Lewis Public Affairs
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Title Annotation:health services of dental personnels to soldiers
Author:Reed, Tammy L.
Publication:The Dental Assistant
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Previous Article:The office environment: take a good look.
Next Article:Your gift--to yourself and to your patient.

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