Dental Flight provides diagnostic and radiographic services to March Airmen

  • Published
  • By Maj. Vincent Chiappone
  • 452nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron

The primary mission of the 452nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron (AMDS) Dental Flight is here to maintain your deployment readiness. We offer a full suite of diagnostic and radiographic services as part of your overall fitness evaluation. All these contribute to the overall Department of Defense goal- to keep each of the services at a 95 percent dental readiness rate.

The nature of military dental readiness has grown in importance over time, as historically up to 40 percent of service members developed mission-limiting dental conditions in various overseas conflicts in the past century.

At March ARB, our dentists and dental technicians bring you a vast amount of experience to conduct a comprehensive oral health assessment. Along with managing busy, successful private practices, our dentists and techs have deployed overseas in support of military operations and humanitarian missions. Our staff have contributed to improving  oral health for  active duty service members, veterans, and civilians from as far away as Africa, Southeast Asia and South America; to less geographically accessible regions within the U.S. including northernmost Alaska, the Hawaiian backwoods, the Deep South, and the Midwest; to our own backyard here in California, providing professional dental services to vulnerable groups, including  those who are economically disadvantaged, uninsured, low-income families, and the homeless. One of our technicians recently completed an Individual Readiness Training Exercise in Minnesota, where she performed as part of a dental team that completed 2,003 procedures on 548 patients in 10 days, delivering over $260,000 in pro bono care!

A typical visit to the dental squadron starts with a review of your health history to check for any medical conditions that may compromise your oral health. While tobacco cessation counseling is often associated with your Preventive Health Assessment (PHA) visit, it would not be uncommon to get the same advice from your dentist at this stage in the exam. The health history will be followed by x-rays of your teeth, usually captured by our swift and skilled dental technicians. The 452nd AMDS is a very busy clinic, one of the busiest in AFRC, yet you will be amazed at the swiftness and professionalism of our techs in helping you through the stages of your exam once you have your assigned dental treatment room. The dental officer will then review the findings and perform a thorough oral examination.

What do dentists look for in your mouth? We are screening your mouth for cavities, fractures, gum disease, jaw disease, soft tissue injures, and many other conditions that affects your oral health. At the conclusion of your exam you will be assigned one of three categories of dental readiness.

The basic way to think about the Dental Readiness Classifications (DRCs) are as follows:

  • Class 1: Your teeth are healthy and we believe you can keep them that way for another year. Great work!

  • Class 2: You have something going on, but as long as you maintain your oral hygiene (good brushing/flossing, avoiding tobacco, excess processed sugary foods/drinks, etc.). we don’t anticipate you having any limiting conditions in the next year. Something is happening with your teeth or gums that we want to keep an eye on. The majority of Airmen fall into this stage of DRC.

  • Class 3: The dreaded Class 3 means you are more than likely to develop a duty limiting condition within the next year if you don’t pursue dental treatment. The most common diseases and abnormalities we diagnose are large untreated cavities, sizeable fractured teeth, tooth and jaw pain, wisdom teeth that will cause infection, pain and suffering if not removed, and gum disease so severe it can be considered an infected open wound inside your mouth.

Our primary mission is exams, exams, and more exams. As a reserve base, despite all of our combined dental expertise, our role is to determine your deployment status and ability to take care of your teeth. It is ultimately up to you, the Reserve-Ready Airman, to take responsibility for your dental health. Dental conditions can be a tricky business…diseased teeth, if left untreated, can remain silent and undetected for some time, until they erupt in a cascade of symptoms including pain, infection and loss of function. This can severely impact your ability to complete your mission even among the hardiest of Airmen. So take great care of your teeth, they’re the only ones you have left! We look forward to seeing you on UTA Saturdays, facilitating your Reserve readiness one smile at a time!