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Four hands are better than two

  • Published
  • By R.J. Oriez
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OHIO -- Most dentists agree that the key to quality care sits within arm’s reach.

“Dentistry is a four-handed profession,” says Capt. Emily Steiner, 88th Dental Squadron dentist. “Without our assistants, we aren’t able to provide safe, effective and efficient care.”

This week, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Dental Clinic is observing Dental Assistants Recognition Week. But the dentists will tell you that appreciation is year-round.

“Day in and day out, they’re just doing it, doing it, doing it,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Krivitzky, 88 DS residency director. “They set up the chairs. They disinfect the rooms. They handle the instruments. They handle the patient flow. They schedule patients. They work the front desk.”

Some also work in the lab, making dentures and crowns for the clinic’s patients. Among them is Senior Airman Nicholas Carter, an 88 DS dental laboratory technician.

“Any prosthetics that go in somebody’s mouth, it’s my job to make it,” Carter said.

Carter did not come into the Air Force planning on making teeth.

“Even though it wasn’t something I particularly looked for, I’ve grown very fond of this job,” he said. “It’s more hands-on and crafty than most any other job I could have hoped for.”

And, he finds it satisfying.

“It gives some people some quality of life that they might not be otherwise able to get,” Carter said.

While Carter likes working behind the scenes, other dental technicians are the clinic’s public face.

“They are the ones who greet you at the front desk,” Steiner said. “They are the ones that are going to take your X-rays. They are the ones that bring you back and they are also the ones, at the end of the appointment, who schedule you for the next one.”

Steiner stresses the importance of the dental assistant.

“We work as a team,” she said. “For us to be efficient and effective, two hands just isn’t enough to perform dentistry.”