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Dental residents keep Barksdale Airmen healthy

By Stephanie Bemrose The Bombardier

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Most people don't enjoy making a trip to the dentist. But when Barksdale Airmen take a trip to the 2d Dental Squadron, they could be helping four residents fill their requirements in several specialties.

Capt. (Dr.) Marie Brancato, Lt. Col. (Dr.) Daniel Savett, Maj. (Dr.) Jill Cherry, and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Lori Everett are attending a year-long Advanced Education and General Dentistry I program here.

Dr. Brancato said she joined the residency program for the enjoyment of learning new skills as well as to fine-tune the skills she already had. She enjoys learning new skills.

"We've only been here since July, so we're still pretty new here, but I like doing things I've never done before," Dr. Brancato said.

One skill she has learned is making gum flaps for surgery when she does restorative dentistry.

"I never would have thought to do that, but when there is a cavity below the gumline, we can prepare the tooth and see the decay and have better access to the cavity," she explained. She also said her root canals are now quicker than they were before her residency.

Dr. Cherry said she joined the program to relieve her frustration of not knowing the newer techniques and materials the dentists around her had. She enjoys the new information she's getting.

"It's good - we're learning a lot of information and experience in just a year's time," Dr. Cherry said.

One example of new experience for her is third molar surgery, or wisdom teeth extraction.

"I had a two-week rotation in dental school of a few cases a day, but it's something that most of us don't do once we graduate, especially with intravenous sedation," she said. "We get a six-week rotation in oral surgery here, so everyday, all day, we know we'll get the experience by the end of the rotation."

Dr. Bachtell said this experience is essential to keep Barksdale Airmen healthy by taking care of their dental needs. In only three months, the residents have already provided treatment to at least 530 patients for more than 1,300 clinical procedures, equivalent to about $75,000.

"Residents are able to do just about all the procedures that you could be referred to a specialist for, such as periodontal surgery, fillings, crowns, and extraction of wisdom teeth with sedation," Dr. Bachtell explained. "For a patient with a complicated treatment plan it's nice for them to be able to see the same doctor every visit."

Although patients provide experience for the residents, patients are also at an advantage because of this program, Sergeant Thomas said.

"Patients get the best treatment the first time rather than having to come back multiple times to have work finished," the sergeant said. "The residents work with other dentists and put their expertise together to help each other."

Sergeant Thomas said there is one requirement that is the hardest to meet - denture treatments.

"The residents have to do denture treatments, but few active-duty have or want to have dentures," the sergeant said. "In that case, we solicit for retirees and spouses who need that kind of procedure so the residents can fulfill their prosthetic requirements."

Some people on base are confused and they don't understand that the residents are already dentists, said Capt. (Dr.) Angela Bachtell, deputy director of Advanced Education in General Dentistry.

The Barksdale residents, unlike those at the other 11 AEGD bases, have had at least one duty assignment already, Dr. Bachtell said.

"Just because they're going through additional training doesn't mean they don't already have a degree as a doctor - they've already been through at least eight years of college and dental school before coming here," she said.

The residents also attend class here for a half a day once each week and are working on patients the rest of the time. This amounts to between 30-50 patients per week for the four residents, according to Staff Sgt. Monica Thomas, NCOIC of 2d DS residency flight.

The residents will complete the program in August, having honed their skills from evaluating a patient's oral health to providing comprehensive dental care.