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News | Jan. 31, 2012

"Pulling teeth" is a way of life on a MEDRETE

By Staff Sgt. Bryan Franks Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Members of the Joint Medical Readiness Training Exercise provided medical services to more than 730 La Bacadia community members Jan. 31 here including more than 85 patients seen by the dental team.

The Joint MEDRETE's dental members are responsible for dental assessment and tooth extraction during the event utilizing mainly the basic tools of the trade.

"Extracting decayed teeth is an efficient way of providing relief to our patients," said Lt. Col. Ray Williams, Medical Element dentist who is deployed to Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, from Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita, Texas. "It allows us to get rid of the source of the infection as well as the pain."

For many rural areas of Honduras, dental visits are few and far between as a result tooth decay is a constant issue within these communities, and the dental team is a welcome sight for many patients.

"I love the smiles from patients' faces after I'm done," said Staff Sgt. Marchawn Walker, MEDEL dental technician and also deployed to Soto Cano AB from Sheppard AFB. "I love working with the children--they bring a smile to my face."

For Walker this is her second MEDRETE the first being in Thailand.

"I was mentally prepared for this MEDRETE," the Houston native continued. "I didn't know what to expect the first time in Thailand--but it definitely helped me be a better dental technician for this one now."

While the dental team is typically the last ones to finish each day of the MEDRETE, they wish they could do even more.

"As with being deployed anywhere you always face the challenges of limited supplies and time, but we are proud of the work we do," Williams said.

"They may have one less tooth but they don't hurt anymore," Walker continued.

In fiscal year 2011, Joint Task Force-Bravo and the Honduran Ministry of Health clinicians provided general medical care to 14,401 patients and dental care to 1,061 patients for a total of 15,462 Hondurans receiving much-needed assistance.

The Joint MEDRETE team will continue medical services in La Bacadia Feb. 1.