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NEWS | Sept. 29, 2016

Dental program connects Trident Tech, JB Charleston

By Staff Sgt. Andrea Salazar Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

People join the military for different reasons. Some reasons include: wanting to serve their country, wanting to see the world, acquiring personal discipline or being part of an institution. A significant number of others join to pursue educational opportunities. Thanks to a joint-educational agreement, dental technicians in the Air Force have the opportunity to gain certification in a civilian environment while they serve their country.

In 2003, the Air Force entered into agreements with two institutions: Trident Technical College here and St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Florida. The purpose of the program is to train active-duty dental technicians as registered dental hygienists. Both programs are certified by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation. The program aids Air Force members pursue their education, while the partnership with Trident allows local students the opportunity to do hands-on training with service members.

 “When we have Air Force students in the classroom, they help our local students by sharing their past experience in military dental clinics,” said Kimberly Bodiford, Trident Technical College Dental Hygiene program clinical coordinator.

“Attendees were selected through a competitive board process and are considered some of the very best dental technicians in the Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Carolina Bunce, 628th Medical Group Registered Dental Hygienist and liaison for the Dental Hygiene program here.

Sergeant Bunce also stated that being a dental hygienist had helped her clinic when she went through the program in 2005.

“I wanted to interact with a lot of different people on a daily basis while also having a major impact on the mission,” added Bunce. “I love helping people. The U.S. Air Force Dental Service taught me the importance of oral health and I wanted to share that with people directly.”

The program curriculum includes general education and professional dental hygiene courses. Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the dental hygiene national board exam. Additionally, they can take the regional and/or individual state board examinations for licensing and certification. After passing the boards, the students can provide preventive, educational and therapeutic services in Air Force dental clinics and in remote locations where care is needed.

“Being certified broadens their scope of care and they’re able to provide more periodontal care with regards to teeth structure,” said Bunce.

The base dental clinic also participates in the program allowing civilian and active-duty students the opportunity to treat patients.

"Our close relationship with the faculty at Trident Technical College contributes to the success of all students and builds community trust and support. It also demonstrates the Air Force is an excellent community partner," said Bunce.

“All the students help each other by sharing their knowledge and experience,” said Bunce. “The military students help set the example demonstrating leadership and the core values of: integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do.”

Although the 628th Medical Group oversees the Air Force students’ school schedule and training, they belong to the 381st Training Group located in Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. When active-duty students are not at school, they are working in the clinic to sharpen their skills.

"After graduation and successful completion of the national exam, participants will be assigned to various military locations based on Air Force and patient population needs," Bunce said. "Having military dental hygienists available will enhance patient care and improved worldwide readiness."