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39 MDG dental keeps Incirlik's pearly whites healthy

Maj. Kyle Pelkey and Airman 1st Class Crystal Senna, 39th Medical Operations Squadron dental clinic, examine a patient before extracting a tooth. The dental clinic provides between 500 and 800 procedures including exams and teeth cleaning. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lauren Padden)

Maj. Kyle Pelkey and Airman 1st Class Crystal Senna, 39th Medical Operations Squadron dental clinic, examine a patient before extracting a tooth. The dental clinic provides between 500 and 800 procedures including exams and teeth cleaning. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lauren Padden)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- The 39th Medical Group's dental clinic cares for and cleans approximately 144,000 teeth, all belonging to Incirlik's nearly 5,000 service members, dependants, retirees, contractors and private pay patients residing in the local area. 

While the clinic offers service to all Incirlik members, its primary responsibility is to care for active duty servicemembers. 

"Active duty members are our main focus," said Maj. Kyle Pelkey, 39th Medical Operations Squadron Dental Operations Flight commander. "Everyone else is seen on a space-available basis." 

The dental clinic's 19-person team of enlisted members and officers is comprised of dentists, dental technicians, laboratory technicians and a periodontal therapist; depending upon their specialty. These Airmen clean teeth, X-ray patients, conduct diagnostic tests and dental examinations, and perform surgical procedures and intravenous-sedation wisdom-teeth removal. 

Along with these services, Incirlik's dental laboratory offers patients hard-night guards, sports mouth guards, crowns, bridges and dentures. 

The dental clinic does not conduct pediatric procedures or orthodontic procedures but does in rare circumstances offer teeth whitening. 

"Teeth whitening is offered only for aesthetic reasons in conjunction with comprehensive treatment," said Major Pelkey. 

Examples of dental work conducted for aesthetic reasons consist of tooth-colored fillings, veneer, or bridgework conducted when the teeth coloring doesn't match before bleaching is performed. 

While the clinic does not offer pediatric dentistry, the dental staff can accomplish minor dental work for children. 

"When it comes to extensive work where sedation is required, the staff is not properly manned," said Major Pelkey. 

The major believes that the care provided by his staff is far more personal than the care offered in the civilian sector. 

"We provide the best care and offer the best solutions for your teeth and you because we don't care about profit," he said. 

While the dental clinic staff takes their careers seriously, some could say dental patients also have a responsibility regarding the health of their teeth. 

One method of keeping teeth healthy is to floss daily, said Master Sgt. Kathryn Martin, 39 MDOS Dental Operations noncommissioned officer in-charge. 

"Just like exercising, when you first start you hurt everywhere," she said. "It's the same with flossing. It's going to hurt, but if you keep with it, the pain goes away." 

The staff at the clinic likes to say, "You don't have to floss all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep." This goes for overall oral health as well. If going to the dentist is not a favorite pastime, then consistent oral hygiene, consisting of teeth brushing and flossing, can make all the difference. 

Though there is no official dental "sick call," the clinic reserves openings specifically for dental emergencies and there is a dentist on call 24/7. Incirlik members may call the ambulance services at 676-6666 for dental emergencies after hours and a dentist will be contacted.