Group photograph of the five 354th Medicial Operations Squadron Icemen who participated in Mission of Mercy Alaska. From Left to Right: Staff Sgt. Amber Green, Senior Airman Kati Lappin, Capt. Daniel Binkowski, Airman 1st Class Yomarly Rosariotorres, Airman 1st Class Nicole Berard. (Courtesy Photo)
by Senior Airman Lauren-Taylor Levin
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
5/2/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Military members heading to the dentist at least once a year is a common thing, but for some outside of the military, it could be life changing.
Five Icemen from the 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental clinic joined more than 1,332 community volunteers to provide dental care to the Anchorage community April 11 and 12.
The group was participating in Mission of Mercy Alaska, a non-profit organization that goes to different locations in the United States and provides free dental care while placing a high priority on patients suffering from dental infections or pain.
"On our first day outside you could clearly see a line for miles of people that were camping outside of the building where the event was being held just to get seen for dental treatment," said Staff Sgt. Amber Green, 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental technician.
One of the Alaska Dental society primary goals for this event was to encourage low-income patients, policymakers and dental professionals to work together to reduce the disease burden and improve the oral health of Alaskan residents.
"A lot of the people honestly hadn't seen a dentist in years," said Green.
Volunteer dentists and dental technicians performed teeth cleanings, filled and pulled teeth, performed root canals and x-rays, and provided a limited number of flippers and temporary retainers to replace missing teeth.
"Because of how many patients they had to see it was definitely a challenge having to attend to so many people within a short period of time, but an experience I will never forget," said Senior Airman Kati Lappin, 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental technician.
Lappin added with seeing so many patients, the supplies for flippers and even temporary retainers to replace missing teeth were practically gone after the first day of the event.
"One gentleman I will remember the most was an individual that had saved so much money to drive all the way from Fairbanks, Alaska, all the way down to Anchorage just to get his teeth fixed," said Airman 1st Class Nicole Berard, 354th Medical Operations Squadron dental technician. "After we removed the teeth that were causing him so much pain you could just tell the difference on his face that he was pain free."
In all, 1,589 patients were treated during two day event for a total of $1,156,650 in free dental care.
"It was definitely an eye opener and I honestly can't wait for next year's Mission of Mercy Alaska to take place here in the Fairbanks area and to have more individuals from the Eielson Air Force Base Medical Group help participate," said Capt. Daniel Binkowski 354th MDOS dentists.