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Proudly serving: Dental assistants keep appointments rolling during appreciation week

Senior Airman Stefan Elmore, a 377th Dental Squadron dental assistant, prepares a room for a patient in the dental clinic here. The American Dental Association Dental Assistants Appreciation Week runs from March 4-10. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Berenger)

Senior Airman Stefan Elmore, a 377th Dental Squadron dental assistant, prepares a room for a patient in the dental clinic here. The American Dental Association Dental Assistants Appreciation Week runs from March 4-10. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Berenger)

Airman 1st Class Kathleen Shields, a dental assistant with the 377th Dental Squadron here, prepares dental instruments for an upcoming appointment. Airman Shields credits her decision to the join the Air Force to her father, who served in the Navy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Berenger)

Airman 1st Class Kathleen Shields, a dental assistant with the 377th Dental Squadron here, prepares dental instruments for an upcoming appointment. Airman Shields credits her decision to the join the Air Force to her father, who served in the Navy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Berenger)

Airman 1st Class Sasha Plummer, a dental assistant, searches for dental records at the 377th Dental Squadron. Airman Plummer said that she enjoys working with the patients and would like to become a dental hygienist. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Berenger)

Airman 1st Class Sasha Plummer, a dental assistant, searches for dental records at the 377th Dental Squadron. Airman Plummer said that she enjoys working with the patients and would like to become a dental hygienist. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Berenger)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, NEW MEXICO -- Dental assistants are an important part of any dental clinic and to honor their services, March 4-10 is Dental Assistants Appreciation Week. The theme of the week is "Delivering Excellence Throughout the World," which is especially true of Air Force assistants.

However they happened to find their way into the dentistry, the dental assistants at the 377th Dental Squadron say that the best part of their job is working with the patients.
Airman 1st Class Sasha Plummer has been stationed here since July; this is her first duty station. She said she loves working with the patients and being able to help them be in the best dental health possible. Eventually, she said she would like to become a dental hygienist and that the experience she is getting here as an assistant will benefit her greatly in her future dental aspirations.

Airman Plummer said she enjoys when the First Term Airman Center Airmen come in for initial exams because of the speed and thoroughness that the large number of patients requires.

Airman 1st Class Kathleen Shields said that every job she has held has been some form of customer service but that this is the most involved with the "customer" she has ever been. On a general day, she said she and the dentist she works with will see anywhere from eight to 10 patients, depending on the nature of their visits. Her father served in the Navy and she said she grew up seeing what he and his brethren in arms did and enlisted because of what she saw.

"I wanted to be a part of that - to fight for that cause," she said. She also said she enjoys what is involved in dentistry because it is a never-ending learning process. "It keeps you on your toes. You constantly need to learn about the new procedures and advances in medicine," Airman Shields said.

Allie Smith came to the squadron in 1993, when she came in on a six-month volunteer rotation as part of an American Red Cross program. She said she immediately fell in love with the squadron because "everyone just made you want to be there."

Her husband, who recently retired from the Air Force after 24 years of service, traveled a lot and they were stationed overseas. Upon returning to the Albuquerque area, Ms. Smith went to work for Veterans' Affairs. After running into Master Sgt. Richard Townsend of the dental squadron she found out that there was an opening and soon after applied to return to the dental squadron.

"I'm here to serve the young men and women because they give so much and here I get to give a little something back. You're doing something good for someone. You see what they're going through and what they do for us. I just try to do something," Ms. Smith said.

Senior Airman Stefan Elmore was in the Army for four years before joining the Air Force. He served in field dentistry in the Army and switched to clinical dentistry when coming into the Air Force. He said the line of work is very rewarding because you know that you're helping people even if they don't always want to be in the dentist's chair.
"I'm a people person and like to talk to people and share stories. It's also very interesting work because no two mouths are the same," he said.

The American Dental Association, the American Dental Assistants Association, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Dental Assistants Association and the U.S. Army Dental Command designate DARW as the time to acknowledge dental assistants' talents and service. Be sure to say thank you to your dental assistant during this week.