1st Special Operations Dental Squadron ranks first in Air Force

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
  • Public Affairs
The Airmen at Hurlburt Field are known for being leaders among leaders in the Air Force. But did you know the Airmen at Hurlburt are leading the Air Force with the highest cavity rate? 

Due to the high operations tempo and the duration, frequency and length of deployments, Hurlburt Field Airmen don't always have dental care readily available to them. Fortunately, when they're on home station, they're treated by the top ranked dental facility in the Air Force. 

The 1st Special Operations Dental Squadron recently separated from the 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron and stood up as its own squadron.
The 1st SODS is the first to stand up under the Air Force Medical Services Flight Path to deliver better service to patients. 

Acting as its own unit also benefits the organization. 

"Decisions can be made faster and at a lower level," said Col. James Schumacher, 1st SODS commander. "We can focus more on our area of expertise." 

The 1st SODS serves the third largest active-duty population stateside with a staff of seven active-duty dentists, two full-time contract dentists and 36 support personnel, including six contractors and government civilians. The clinic sees 2,000 patients, performs more than 6,000 dental procedures and provides relief to 100 dental sick-call patients every month. The clinic produces $4 million worth of dentistry a year. 

With all that work being done, the squadron's goal is to keep Airmen fit to fight and to educate them about dental care so they can maintain optimal dental health while focusing on the mission, even when they're in deployed locations. Right now, the 1st Special Operations Wing has a 96 percent dental readiness rate. 

That rate couldn't be attained without the support of the squadron commanders and first sergeants, Colonel Schumacher said. 

Just like the rest of our Air Commandos, their mission is not always at home station.
Currently, there is one dentist and one technician slated to deploy. While in theater, they'll treat dental sick-call patients and assist surgeons with tasks like suturing, cleaning wounds and triaging patients. 

"Historically, 25 percent of sick-call appointments in theater have been dental related," Colonel Schumacher said. "We need to reduce that number." 

"That's why it's important to educate them on the importance of making dental appointments and maintaining dental health," said Master Sgt. Henry Calma, 1st SODS superintendent of dental services. "We don't want someone to be red lined while going through the processing line because their dental status is expired." 

Tech. Sgt. Katie Craig, 1st SODS NCO-in-charge of dental readiness, developed a special preventive dentistry program to track patients at high risk for cavities. The program educates patients and ensures they complete a specific treatment protocol to treat their dental disease. 

The program has been recognized as a best practice by the Health Services Inspection team. 

"It's quite an honor to hear that from the inspectors," Sergeant Craig said. 

The 1st SODS dental laboratory flight also received recognition. It has maintained a 99.9 percent first time insertion rate for crowns, 98 percent patient satisfaction rate and a production rate two-and-a-half times the Air Force average. 

The clinic continues to lead the way for Air Force dental facilities. In December, they earned a score of 98 out of a possible 100 from the Health Services Inspection team. This is the highest score ever given to a dental clinic. 

They not only lead the Air Force in service, but in technology as well. The 1st SODS is slated to receive some new "toys" that will help the team work even more efficiently.
One such item is the digital radiology system. The new system will eliminate the use of hard-copy x-rays, reduce exposure to radiation and get rid of chemicals used to develop x-rays. 

While helping save the environment, the system also helps save another valuable resource in the clinic: time. 

"Time equates to dollars," said Capt. Dragos Stefandogar, 1st SODS. "It normally takes 10-15 minutes, now it will take 30 seconds." 

The squadron will also be getting a new dental instrument processing center, commonly known as a sterilizer. The dental squadron has the only one in the entire medical group and supports the other sections in the instrument sterilization needs. In 2008, the dental lab will be renovated to help make the team more efficient. 

With all the accolades, new equipment and systems, the 1st SODS strives to remain on top and be even better than they are now. 

"We're not just going to sit back on our heels," Colonel Shumacher said. "We're going to continue to be the best and lead the way."