Capt. Ben Areheart, 78th Dental Squadron, dentist, and Suzette Shoulta, dental assistant, use a digital scanner to produce a three dimensional image of a patient’s teeth and soft tissue structures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)
2/7/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Many Airmen enter the 78th Medical Group Dental Squadron facility in need of a dental crown to cover an unhealthy or damaged tooth that could prevent them from deploying.
At the average dental office, the process to accommodate such cases can take anywhere from two to four weeks. But since the 78th DS performs far beyond the average dental office, they have employed cutting edge technology to get Airmen from toothache to deployable in only a day.
The 78th MGDS uses the digital imaging of Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing to produce dental crowns in as little as 10 minutes. The entire dental appointment time can be completed in as little as 90 minutes.
Following the preparation of a tooth in need of a crown, the dentist uses a digital scanner to image the tooth, its adjacent teeth and soft tissue structures surrounding it.
That image is then rendered into a three-dimensional computer model. Based on that image, the computer generates a proposal for the crown. The dentist is then able to customize the shape and contour of the crown specifically to fit the patient.
While still sitting in the chair, patients are able to watch on a computer monitor as the dentist designs the crown.
The dentist will often use this time for patient education as well. Upon completing the design, the data is sent to a milling machine where a precisely-fit crown is carved from a solid block.
"Patients can come in, only need one round of anesthesia, and leave with a completed crown," Capt. Kevin Nail, deputy squadron commander, said. "This is beneficial in a number of ways - patients who are fearful of dental anesthesia only need one appointment versus two appointments; patients don't have to worry about wearing a temporary crown that can break or fall off; and one appointment has less impact on the Air Force Mission," he said.
The use of CAD/CAM technology to expedite dental care is an excellent example of how the 78th MGDS leads the way in Airman readiness.