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Fighting enamel cruelty

Eielson’s “Molar Bears” are always ready to chew through any oral crisis and quickly get to the root canal of any problem leaving Airmen’s teeth on the cusp of excellence.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kylie Harvey, a 354th Dental Flight dental assistant, and Capt. Robert Walter, a 354th Dental Flight dentist, simulate working on a patient Jan. 16, 2019 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Eielson dental clinic treated more than 7,000 patients in 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eric M. Fisher)

Eielson’s “Molar Bears” are always ready to chew through any oral crisis and quickly get to the root canal of any problem leaving Airmen’s teeth on the cusp of excellence.

Four different stages of a dental crown are displayed next to one another Jan. 16, 2019, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The dental clinic’s ability to create patient’s crowns locally greatly improves readiness by reducing the amount of time the patient is non-deployable from several weeks to the length of a single appointment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eric M. Fisher)

Eielson’s “Molar Bears” are always ready to chew through any oral crisis and quickly get to the root canal of any problem leaving Airmen’s teeth on the cusp of excellence.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Robert Walter, a 354th Dental Flight dentist, inspects a patient’s teeth Jan. 16, 2018, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Dentistry is a vital part of keeping Airmen fit to fight because any dental condition that is likely to result in an dental emergency within a year can prevent Airmen from deploying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eric M. Fisher)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

Poor dental hygiene can leave lasting effects upon anyone, even a small tooth ache can gnaw away at your sanity and distract you from an important task.

Thankfully, the 354th Medical Group provides Airmen a line of defense against tooth decay with the dental clinic, or “Molar Bears,” as they call themselves. 

“In 2018, we treated more than 7,000 patients and delivered 1.7 million dollars’ worth of dental services to Active Duty and Guard Airmen,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jessica Harvey, the 354th Dental Flight Commander.

The clinic isn’t only responsible for treating cavities though, they provide many other dental procedures as well as maintain readiness. 

“The dental clinic allows the installation to maintain its readiness by ensuring that Airmen’s teeth are healthy before they’re able to deploy or PCS,” said Airman 1st Class Kylie Harvey, a 354th Dental Flight dental assistant.

Clearance for PCS or deployment is determined based on a dental classification where Class 1 is best and Class 3 is worst.

“If the patient has a dental condition which is likely to cause an emergency within the next 12 months they are considered ‘Dental Class III,’ non-deployable,” said Maj. Jessica Harvey.

To crown all that off, the dentists are also capable of building perfect dental restorations for badly-damaged teeth by using a technology that scans a digital impression then uses a 3D printer to mill a new one out of a specialized porcelain. 

The device can sculpt a crown in a matter of hours, biting a huge chunk out of time spent on the old process which required the staff to send the tooth measurements to Peterson Air Force Base, where the crown was created and shipped back to the clinic.

“With the traditional process, a patient would be given a temporary crown for approximately one month while a laboratory fabricated a permanent restoration,” said Maj. Jessica Harvey.

Using the latest technology the Dental Squadron are now able to complete a permanent restoration within the same visit, which reduces a month-long process to four hours and keeps the patient ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, she continued. 

Eielson’s “Molar Bears” are always ready to chew through any oral crisis and quickly get to the root canal of any problem leaving Airmen’s teeth on the cusp of excellence.