Ramstein Area Dental Lab provides smiles for Airmen, Soldiers

Story and photos by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Chris York, 86th Dental Squadron dental lab technician, checks the contact between teeth on a set of caps to ensure they are properly fitted at the 86 DS Area Dental Lab June 21 on Ramstein. York made the caps for a U.S. Army Soldier, as the lab aids their sister service in a joint partnership that provides a faster turnaround time than sending Army cases back to the U.S.

Many Airmen and Soldiers are used to working alongside one another in a variety of career fields. Pilots, security forces, maintainers, and others often have the opportunity to build a partnership with sister services through exercises and deployments.

The 86th Dental Squadron Area Dental Lab has also found a way to increase partnership by providing services, such as crowns and dentures, for Army patients throughout Europe.

“Recently we’ve had the capability to reach out to them and offer our services to where we can receive their cases and take care of them,” said Lt. Col. Geoffrey Gessel, 86 DS ADL director. “Their only other option is to have their cases sent all the way back to the U.S.”

The 86 DS ADL technicians also hosted a training day for Army personnel who do not have access to all the equipment the Ramstein lab has to offer.

“It ended up being really great because we were able to meet some of their lab technicians and see what capabilities they had versus what we use,” said Charles Edward Davis II, 86 DS ADL flight chief.

For the Army, the only area dental lab is in the U.S., which services both stateside and overseas Soldiers and their families. A large workload for the stateside lab equals slower turnaround times which is added to the time it takes to ship molds and appliances to the U.S. and back. A typical turnaround time for the Army lab in the U.S. is 45 days, while the Ramstein ADL can typically complete a project in 20 days.

Leaders in the 86 DS ADL reached out to the Army at Pulaski Barracks, who spread the word to Army bases throughout the European Command. They were told all they have to do is ask, and the Ramstein ADL will offer a helping hand as long as it does not impact the workload they already have for Airmen and their dependents. So far, only bases in the Rheinland-Pfalz area have used the Ramstein lab for their patients.

“It’s just open communication to see what they need, what we can offer them, and in the time they are requesting it,” Davis said. “So far we haven’t had any issues; I think we’ve been able to meet all their needs over the past few months as we’ve been getting more and more cases from them.”

The area dental lab at Ramstein has the capability to make dentures, removable partial dentures, crowns, bridges, retainers, suck-downs, sports guards, hard night guards, sleep apnea devices, custom ear pieces, and more. All these products are available to Army patients if their own lab doesn’t have the capability or manning to complete the job. The lab technicians can provide many of these services for a single tooth all the way up to a full mouth reconstruction.

Chris York, 86 DS ADL dental lab technician, recently completed a set of 25 caps for a Soldier when the Army dental lab didn’t have the manning to complete the project themselves.

Chris York, 86th Dental Squadron dental lab technician, polishes a porcelain cap for a set made for a U.S. Army Soldier at the 86 DS Area Dental Lab June 21 on Ramstein. The lab has formed a joint partnership with the Army and provides services when needed for Soldiers and their dependents.

“It’s very important [to have this partnership with the Army],” Davis said. “Anything we can do to support a sister service in general, but if we can help get people to deploy faster than 45 days, that’s going to benefit the Air Force, Army, Navy, Department of Defense, the U.S. in general.”

“One person not being able to deploy, whether it’s Army or Air Force, that’s one extra member that has to take their spot,” he continued. “If it’s just because of a dental emergency or a dental issue and we can support that, that’s why we’re here, that’s why we have a job.”

Davis finds satisfaction in his job where he provides a service that makes a difference for people.

“I love my job,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and the greatest thing is replacing someone’s tooth and giving them the ability to smile or function. To see someone who has had to replace all of their teeth for one thing or another and now they have a full set of dentures and they smile again, it’s a huge change in people’s attitudes and life.”

Partnership is important for the success of the DOD mission as a whole. Working together in any capacity helps build and strengthen partnerships and the 86 DS ADL Airmen are furthering their relationship with Soldiers throughout Europe one smile at a time.

A set of caps for teeth rests on a table at the 86th Dental Squadron Area Dental Lab June 21 on Ramstein. Chris York, 86th Dental Squadron dental lab technician, made 25 caps out of gold and two different types of porcelain for a Soldier as part of the lab’s joint partnership with the U.S. Army.
A mold of teeth is displayed on a desk as Chris York, 86th Dental Squadron dental lab technician, works on a set of caps for a U.S. Army Soldier at the 86 DS Area Dental Lab June 21 on Ramstein.