Health & Safety

December 6, 2013

Residents cut teeth on dental specialties

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Airman 1st Class Timothy Young
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

Raymond Estrella, 99th Dental Squadron dental assistant, observes as Senior Airman Kelly Balch, 99th DS dental assistant, adjusts the flow of a patients saline solution Dec. 2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The solution is used to keep patients hydrated during an operation.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Six dental officers begin their fifth month of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program at the Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center Dec. 2.

The AEGD Residency is a 12-month training program focusing on comprehensive dentistry for general dental residents who are new to the Air Force. The program is generally reserved for new graduates of dental school; the residents must be fully licensed.

The residency teaches these new dentists a fresh set of skills and helps them sharpen those they previously acquired.

“While in dental school students get a little training doing root canals, gum surgery and oral surgery, but they don’t get extensive training in any of it,” said Maj. Nathan Krivitzky, the 99th Dental Squadron deputy director of AEGD Program. “They don’t always know how to connect the dots to all the various specialties of dentistry. Our program takes it to the next level; our residents learn beyond dental school.”

The Nellis Dental Clinic has eight specialists in all different aspects of dentistry. These specialists help teach more in-depth aspects of their specialty to the residents.

“I think we have really benefited from having all the specialists here,” said Capt. (Dr.) Scott Bryant, 99th DS AEGD resident. “There is always feedback from the specialist explaining what was done right and what was done wrong which helps us focus on the areas we need work in.”

Krivitzky said, if a patient walks into a dental clinic with a variety of dental needs, a general dentist, without the training this program provides, would most likely take care of the basic problems, but then would have to refer the patient out to specialists in order to fulfill the rest of a patient’s dental needs.

Capt. (Dr.) Andrew Benfield , 99th Dental Squadron Advanced Education in General Dentistry resident (left) and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jody Harrison, 99th Dental Squadron chief of periodontics (right), perform a dental procedure on a patient Dec. 2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Cavities are one of the most common causes for someone to require dental work.

While in the program, residents will advance their knowledge and practice in specialties that include: endodontics, prosthodontics, periodontics, oral surgery and orthodontics. They are also trained in operating room procedures, IV-sedation techniques and Advanced Cardiac Life Support.

“Our residents will be trained to formulate a treatment plan and then be able to execute that plan from start to finish without having to refer the patient out,” Krivitzky said. “In essence, [they] become a jack of all trades.”

Along with learning the dental specialties, the residents are trained to adapt to an ever-changing career field.

According to Capt. (Dr.) Cody Christensen, 99th DS AEGD resident, dentistry is always changing. What residents learn today probably won’t be the same later. Five years from now, some of the information will be out dated. Materials, techniques and dental concepts are always in flux. This program helps the residents learn to keep up with these changes.

“It’s about providing your patients with the best possible care and using the newest research as it comes out,” Christensen said. “It’s about applying what you have learned as you go.”

By providing advanced training to residents the goal of the program is not just aimed at bettering the Air Force but benefiting the all-around dental career field, Krivitzky said. The Air Force gets highly trained dentists that can be assigned to a small base where they do not have any specialists and therefore provide that base with a wider variety of dental care with just one well trained dentist.

In addition, these residents can then bring the knowledge and skills learned during this program and share their experiences among other dentists at these smaller clinic locations. It should be noted that not all Air Force general dentists are selected for this residency program so the additional skill sets benefit their professional development as well.

“We are impacting the dental profession as a whole,” Krivitzky said.

One way the program can benefit the dental profession outside the Air Force is if the residents one day make a career for themselves in the private sector. The training they receive through this program will make them a better provider in those communities.

“It’s challenging, we are doing stuff we have never done before,” Bryant said. “In the end, I think we will be better for it.”




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