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Dental techs sink their teeth into mission

Dental laboratory technicians with the 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron work in the dental lab at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 2, 2017. The dental laboratory fabricates crowns, bridges, implants, night guards and sports guards. The six-man shop completes approximately 1,000 active cases a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Dental laboratory technicians with the 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron work in the dental lab at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 2, 2017. The dental laboratory fabricates crowns, bridges, implants, night guards and sports guards. The six-man shop completes approximately 1,000 active cases a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Staff Sgt. Kristina Plunkett, a dental laboratory technician with the 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron polishes a finished crown at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 2 2017. The six-man shop completes approximately 1,000 active cases a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Staff Sgt. Kristina Plunkett, a dental laboratory technician with the 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron polishes a finished crown at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 2 2017. The six-man shop completes approximately 1,000 active cases a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Staff Sgt. Kristina Plunkett, a dental laboratory technician with the 1st SODS polishes a finished crown at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 2, 2017. The six-man shop completes approximately 1,000 active cases a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Staff Sgt. Kristina Plunkett, a dental laboratory technician with the 1st SODS polishes a finished crown at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 2, 2017. The six-man shop completes approximately 1,000 active cases a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Master Sgt. Candice Reffitt, dental laboratory flight chief with the 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron, uses a hydrocolloid duplicating machine to create mold for an acrylic night guard at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 1, 2017. Hydrocolloid is used to make acrylic the dental laboratory fabricates crowns, bridges, implants, night guards and sports guards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Master Sgt. Candice Reffitt, dental laboratory flight chief with the 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron, uses a hydrocolloid duplicating machine to create mold for an acrylic night guard at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 1, 2017. Hydrocolloid is used to make acrylic the dental laboratory fabricates crowns, bridges, implants, night guards and sports guards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Master Sgt. Candice Reffitt, dental laboratory flight chief with the 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron, puts a mold into a computer that reads the exact measurements needed to make a crown at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 1, 2017. Dental laboratory technicians support Air Force Special Operations Command’s number one priority by making prostheses and appliances that help improve patients’ dental health. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Master Sgt. Candice Reffitt, dental laboratory flight chief with the 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron, puts a mold into a computer that reads the exact measurements needed to make a crown at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 1, 2017. Dental laboratory technicians support Air Force Special Operations Command’s number one priority by making prostheses and appliances that help improve patients’ dental health. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Working behind the scenes in the 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron, there are six Air Commandos specifically trained to craft dental prostheses and appliances for patients who lose a tooth or are in need of a crown or bridge.
Dental laboratory technicians support Air Force Special Operation Command’s number one priority by making prostheses and appliances that help improve patients’ dental health.
“If we don’t do our job of getting these appliances into a patient’s mouth, [Air Commandos] aren’t able to do their jobs.” said Staff Sgt. Kristina Plunkett, a dental laboratory technician with the 1st SODS. “They can’t finish the mission until we fulfill our requirements.”
From crowns to sports guards, dental technicians create fixed and removable appliances according to the treatment plan prescribed by the dentist.
“Fixed [appliances] are those that are cemented in mouth, and can’t be taken out, like crowns and implants” said Master Sgt. Candice Reffitt, dental laboratory flight chief with the 1st SODS. “Removable [appliances] are ones that you can take out such as night-guards and plastic retainers.”
Dental technicians have a unique skill set, and their equipment helps the process operate as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“We rely heavily on our equipment,” Reffitt said. “For example, our machines can cut down the time of making a crown from 21 days, into one day.”
Hurlburt’s dental laboratory completes approximately 1,000 active cases a year.
“We know what we do makes a difference, and it’s a great feeling,” Reffitt said. “Most people don’t know we exist. We’re a behind-the-scenes shop, but we like it like that.”