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Straighten up and smile right.

Laughing heartily with wide, toothy grins is something most people take fro granted. But, for those with dental deficiences, baring their pearly whites can be a source of embarrassment and anxiety.

Fortunately for those so afflicted, Navy dental technicians (DT) such as DTDN Patrick McCurdy are giving the gift of laughter.

McCurdy, currently assigned to the prosthodontic division, National Naval Dental Center (NNDC), Bethesda, Md., finds great satisfaction in helping to restore missing smiles.

"Once people have new teeth, they're not intimidated by their smile anymore," said McCurdy. "They want to show off their new teeth. It's a great feeling to know you helped restore someone's confidence."

From crowns and bridges to implants and even total mouth reconstruction, the dentist and technicians at NNDC are spreading smiles one mouth at a time. In his clinical capacity, McCurdy prepares each patient before the dentist arrives by explaining the procedures and taking dental impressions of their teeth. "Taking an impression is the first step in the restoration process," McCurdy said. "It helps ensure the proper fit of the new piece."

Because many of the dentist at NNDC Bethesda are in their residencies, the staff sees a wide range of dental deformities. But the learning environment also mandates more appointments and fittings per patient to ensure the proper fit of artificial teeth.

"We've seen some pretty sever cases," McCurdy continued. "I've seen instances where a patient received as many as 18 implants, where screws are surgically inserted into the jaw and a false tooth is then attached to the post. A typical implaint case might call for one or two. This clinic takes on some major constructions to fully prepare our residents for what they may encounter out in the field."

For McCurdy, dentistry isn't just a 9-to-5 to either. It's his 24-7 long-term goal. "I love doing this type of work," said McCurdy. "I'm not sure at this point whether or not I'll stay in prosthodontic care, but I'm definitely pursuing a career in Navy dentistry."

Besides taking night courses toward his degree, McCurdy volunteers time at schools in the community, teaching proper dental hygiene habits to local children.

When asked what pearls of wisdom he would pass along to his fellow shipmates to maintain bright, health smiles, McCurdy chuckled and referred to the familiar.

"I know this probably sounds completely corny, but brush and floss daily," he said with a grin. "Also, schedule check-ups. No one should be afraid to visit the dentist's office. We're really not as bad as you think."
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Title Annotation:Focus on Service
Author:Darby, M.J.
Publication:All Hands
Date:May 1, 2004
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