Taking care of one another is essential to the Air Force mission, and the 86th Dental Squadron area dental laboratory ensures quality prosthodontics are made to prevent mishaps and restore, develop and deploy Airmen from all over Europe.
Prepared for anything from standard appointments to emergencies, the 14 Airmen assigned to Ramstein’s area dental lab fabricate retainers, mouth guards, dentures, porcelain crowns, implants and more for Airmen in 64 treatment facilities within the U.S. European Command and Africa Command areas of responsibility.
The lab is able to service its sister services and hosted three Army civilians and five Army enlisted personnel from five different locations in Germany to continue their medical education during the inaugural joint U.S. Air Forces in Africa training day with EUCOM Army counterparts this past December.
“This joint training day was a huge success, which sparked interest in new computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing opportunities as well as site visits to the Army dental labs,” said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Stellabotte, 86 DS superintendent.
During the training day, there were seven laboratory demonstrations, covering removable appliances, fixed restorations and area dental laboratory submission standards. There were also two presentations from prosthodontic doctors on the use of computer-aided design and manufacturing technologies and a presentation on how to become a certified dental technician, highlighting emerging new materials such as the ceramic polishing compound called zircon brite that can be used to polish all types of crown and bridge restorative materials.
“Somewhere out there are people that have deployed and have a gold crown that I made in their mouth,” said Airman 1st Class Amy Jones, 86 DS dental laboratory technician who participated in the event. “Knowing that I’ve done that makes everything I’m doing worth it.”
The dental lab can be a very rewarding career field as dental lab technicians grow and improve their skills.
“When I gave my first set of dentures, the patient almost started crying,” said Senior Airman Jesse Gill, 86 DS dental laboratory technician. “Seeing their face light up is so satisfying and gives you a new perspective of how important you are.”
Dental lab technicians work hard every day to make certain patients are leaving with a bigger smile on their face.
“I’ve been in the room when a doctor inserts something that the Airmen (dental lab technicians) have fabricated and (have seen) how it can really change a person’s attitude,” Stellabotte said. “We are helping make Airmen deployable, but it’s also restoring self-confidence and a better quality of life.”
This year the 86 DS area dental lab will be hosting the Certified Dental Lab Tech exam. The National Board for Certification will come to Germany and proctor an exam, including a written portion and a hands-on portion that will challenge a technician’s specific specialties, whether it is in ceramics, complete dentures, crown and bridge, orthodontics, partial dentures or implants.
With Ramstein serving as the host site for the first time this summer, they will offer the exam to active-duty and civilian Air Force technicians as well as Army active-duty and civilian technicians.
The lab is the only one of its kind in EUCOM and is one of 10 certified dental labs in the Department of Defense. Additionally, it has a deployment rate of 98.6 percent, which is 3 1/2 percent above the Air Force standard.
From fabricating hard night guards to full gold crowns, the 86 DS area dental lab brings support to Airmen and other service members around the globe one tooth at a time.