Unit Spotlight: Dental keeps Sabers smiling

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexis Siekert
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 52nd Fighter Wing has more than 30 units assigned, working day in and day out to fulfill the mission of defending American and allied interests while building partnership capacity.

Throughout the year, 52nd FW Public Affairs will spotlight each of the wing's units, as together they serve a critical role in fulfilling this mission. This week's spotlight is the 52nd Dental Squadron.

A smile can go a long way. At the 52nd Dental Squadron, maintaining Spangdahlem Airmen's healthy smiles is their top priority.

"We are keeping Sabers in the fight by maximizing readiness through prevention and compassionate comprehensive care," said Lt. Col. Craig Folsom, 52nd DS clinical dentistry flight commander. "Basically, readiness is our job."

In order to maintain readiness, the dental staff ensures everyone receives an annual exam. Individuals who haven't received an exam in 13 months are categorized as dental class four, which means they are no longer world-wide qualified and unable to deploy.

The Air Force goal of dentally world-wide qualified Airmen is 95 percent. Spangdahlem maintains between 98-98.5 percent.

"We are good at making sure the Sabers are ready to go wherever they need to go," Folsom said.

The 52nd DS simplifies this by combining dental cleanings with exams to make it faster and easier for patients. Doing this puts most patients at a class one rating which allows the squadron to focus on those who need further attention.

In order to provide the care Sabers need, the squadron performs many procedures to ensure the health and wellness of the community. The dental staff is capable of producing false teeth, mouth guards or crowns in its lab; can sanitize all equipment; conduct most oral surgeries, and maintain orthodontist care.

The team of 65 individuals stays busy by providing dental care not only to Spangdahlem Airmen, but also families and geographically separated units. While the clinic provides dental care to dependents as needed, most child patients are seen during kids' clinics held twice per year.

"Our kids' clinics accomplish nearly four months of pediatric work in just one day," said Staff Sgt. Richard Rodriguez, 52nd DS NCO in charge of oral surgery. "In March alone, we were able to take care of 151 families."

The dental staff is constantly looking for ways to improve. In order to best meet the needs of the base, every patient is given the opportunity to provide feedback through an email survey. The results are discussed and comments read at weekly meetings.

"The feedback allows us to evaluate what we are doing right and what we can improve upon to best serve our patients," the Folsom said. "We keep our standards set high, and the feedback keeps us on track."