SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
Approximately 43 Airmen and civilians support service members at the 20th Dental Squadron with more than 1,575 dental visits per month during fiscal year 2016.
The dental clinic provides comprehensive oral care ranging from basic exams all the way to specialty care like fillings, oral surgeries, root canals and implants.
Although Airmen are required to receive an annual check-up, these appointments are intended to prevent future appointments while in a deployed location.
“Although dentists are downrange to take care of dental issues, they operate more on a sick call basis,” said Capt. Sarah Curry, 20th DS general dentist.
According to Curry, taking initiative is a big part of ensuring success.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever had a toothache before, but it’s not fun,” Curry said. “It’s not a pleasant experience, and we certainly don’t want our Airmen in pain or uncomfortable while deployed, taking their mind off their mission.”
The 20th DS has prepared 97.1 percent of Team Shaw Airmen to be dentally deployable as of March 2017. Surpassing the Air Force’s goal of 95 percent.
Ensuring Airmen are deployment-ready is one of the biggest impacts the squadron has on service members. Along with ensuring Airmen are ready, the 20th DS builds bonds with the patients they help.
“I feel like the dental squadron provides special care for the Airmen here,” said Airman 1st Class Amie Bickford, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron munitions technician. “Every time I do have a problem, they’re able to offer me a quick appointment to make sure everything is fixed. They are willing to work with you. If you are uncomfortable, they will stop to make sure you are always in your comfort zone.”
When the 20th DS tends to service members, they prevent dental damage and can be the difference between going downrange and being kept from deployment.