U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Savannah Waters
U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Savannah Waters

USAF Dental Corps Chief visits Wolf Pack

by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Sharon Bannister, Defense Health Agency education and training deputy assistant director and Assistant Surgeon General for Dental Services, visited Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Jan. 23, 2019 to meet Airmen and tour the 8th Medical Group.

As the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps Chief, Bannister provides policy and operational advice to the Air Force Surgeon General on matters involving the dental practice of 1,000 dentists and 2,500 technicians.

The Air Force Dental Service’s mission is to provide innovative, expeditionary Airmen to support global operations and ensure a dentally fit force through Trusted Care, and its readiness contributions are critical to Total Force Full Spectrum Readiness.

During her visit to Kunsan, Bannister emphasized oral health is often overlooked, but a critically important aspect of overall deployment readiness.

“Disease and non-battle injuries (DNBI) account for 75 percent of all operational injuries, and dental emergencies account for 15 to 20 percent of all DNBIs, degrading unit mission capabilities,” Bannister said. “Fifty percent of all Department of Defense recruits are assessed in Dental Readiness Class (DRC) 3, and 96 percent require dental care.”

In addition, Bannister laid out and explained her priorities to Airmen of the 8th MDG through the acronym CORE: Caring for people, Optimizing resources, Readiness, and Evolving with change.

“The ‘R’ in CORE is for readiness; I definitely don’t need to tell anybody at the Wolf Pack what that means,” Bannister said. “It’s important for us to focus on prevention and ensure the continuum of care rather than just episodic care, so that when Airmen are tapped on the shoulder, they are ready to go.”

Another important topic Bannister discussed was modernization and innovation in the medical field.

Over the last decade or so, the USAF Dental Corps has seen significant improvements in efficiency and customer care support due to innovation such as advancement in computer-aided design (CAD) or computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) screen capabilities. These innovative programs will be implemented at Kunsan in the near future, which will help shorten the waiting time for procedures such as building crowns for teeth. This procedure often takes weeks to complete but with CAD/CAM capabilities, the time is expected to be cut in half, said Bannister.

Kunsan and the rest of the U.S. Air Force Dental Services should also see a change in patient records.

“I think it’s really important to be able to talk across our system, and across the different services and locations,” Bannister said. “It’s hard to treat patients without a record. We are in the early phases of transitioning to electronic health records, which will open up amazing opportunities to be able to have that continuity of care, no matter where our service members go.”

During her visit, Bannister experienced the extraordinary dedication to readiness the Wolf Pack is known for, as well as the close ties developed in personnel’s short time on the Korean peninsula.

“When you’re in a location where you always need to be ready to go, like Kunsan, it’s impressive to see that unity of effort and purpose,” Bannister said. “You don’t have your families here, but you become each other’s family. Yes, we work hard, we train hard, we are focused on the mission, but it’s also a lot of fun.”

Bannister encourages Airmen everywhere to focus on being ready today, tomorrow, and always.

“I charge each of you to focus on readiness—ensuring a dental ready force and ready dental force,” Bannister said. “Our nation is counting on us to ensure the Department of Defense is ready to support the global mission—and I have no doubt we are up for the charge.”

Photo Caption:
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Sharon Bannister, Defense Health Agency education and training deputy assistant director and Assistant Surgeon General for Dental Services, speaks to Airmen from the 8th Medical Group Flight Medicine flight during her visit to Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Jan. 23, 2019. As the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps Chief, the general provides policy and operational advice to the Air Force Surgeon General on matters involving dental practices of 1,000 dentists and 2,500 technicians.

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