A beam of light strikes a metal hook as it grinds against the surface, chipping away at the grime that clings onto the ivories. Just as the technician’s hands start to cramp, the cleaning is finished and the beam of light reflects off the pearly white teeth like an eclipse over a still ocean.
This is one of many tasks 86th Dental Squadron Airmen perform multiple times a day. Between exams, cleanings and creating prosthetic teeth the dental clinic stays busy, ensuring service members are healthy.
“We cover all of the active-duty (service) stationed at Ramstein, and we also service people who are in Africa and all of Europe,” said Staff Sgt. Ashley Majewski, 86th DS oral preventative assistant.
Last year, the 86th DS gave exams to 9,304 active-duty Air Force members, had 43,690 patient visits and had a total of 132,916 procedures — all with a staff of 87 enlisted members, 32 officers and 17 civilians.
“We are the second largest dental unit in the Air Force,” said Majewski. “I see six patients a day, and I have three troops. You get a sense of fulfillment. Even though I’m just a dental assistant, we do a lot more than people think we do, and our providers give us a lot of hands-on experience.”
Despite the busy schedule, Majewski has a positive outlook on working in the dental clinic.
“It’s amazing; I love it,” she said. “I was afraid to come here because I was at the same base for so long, and that’s all I knew. The morale is great, and our leadership is amazing.”
While morale is a contributor to Majewski’s positive outlook, she genuinely enjoys doing the job.
“It’s great to have a patient with a ton of tartar and then clean (their teeth), because they leave like a brand new person,” said Majewski, describing a rewarding part of the job.
Scraping plaque and tartar off the teeth of KMC members isn’t the only thing the dental clinic does though. There are plenty behind-the-scenes Airmen who add to the clinic’s mission effectiveness.
“Here as a base dental laboratory technician, we support the 33 providers in the clinic,” said Tech. Sgt. Durriyyah Simpson, 86th DS base dental laboratory noncommissioned officer in charge. “Providers will take impressions on their patients, then we will get the impressions and fabricate anything that the patient will need.”
Whenever a patient needs a new set of teeth or a mouth guard to protect them, base dental laboratory is on the case.
“The dental lab is broken into two sections: a removable department and a fixed department,” Simpson said. “The removable department is going to be your mouth guards, retainers, dentures, surgical guides — those kinds of things. The fixed department is going to be anything that you can’t take out of your mouth, such as crowns, fixed partial dentures, onlays and overlays.”
On average, the dental lab receives more than 250 submissions a month.
“I love working at the dental squadron,” Simpson said. “I don’t get to do as much hands-on work now since I’m the NCOIC, but I specialize in dentures. I love dentures because you get to meet the patient, so when you get to see the final product all the way through, their quality of life changes so much. Knowing that I helped make them feel better about themselves, it makes me feel really good.”
Whether it’s the lab technicians making teeth from scratch or oral preventative assistants polishing up patients’ pearly whites, the Airmen at the 86th DS keep on keeping on.