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MWD visits dental clinic
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Dr. Heather Maazccaro (left), from the base’s veterinary clinic, monitors Mix’s heart rate while Capt. (Dr.) Mark Stevenson, Capt. (Dr.) Bryan Katz and Senior Airman Dong Li (left to right) work together to remove tarter from the military working dog’s teeth during a dental exam on March 25. The dentists were making sure the enamel on Mix’s teeth was not worn off due to “cage biting.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)
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Grip and grin; MWD visits dental clinic

Posted 4/7/2011   Updated 4/7/2011 Email story   Print story


by Sarah Olaciregui
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

4/7/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- An unusual patient with some pretty sharp teeth visited the 66th Medical Squadron's dental clinic. Dentists and technicians had the opportunity to work on Mix, a German Shepherd Military Working Dog from the 66th Security Forces Squadron, March 25.

Mix's day started at the base's veterinary clinic, where he was given a sedative. The dog was then brought to the dental clinic by the veterinary staff and put under general anesthesia in the dental clinic surgical suite.

Once under general anesthesia, the dental staff gave the dog an exam, did some preventative care and provided a thorough cleaning.

"The dog is a 'cage biter' and the veterinary staff was concerned he might be wearing away the enamel on his teeth," said Capt. (Dr.) Mark Stevenson, 66th Dental Flight staff general dentist. "In a severe case, the loss of the enamel could make the teeth sensitive or painful. This could interfere with the dog's ability to eat or bite down and maintain a grip in an attack mode."

According to Captain Stevenson, not many dentists have had the opportunity to work on anyone other than humans. In the past, some of the dental technicians have assisted the veterinary staff with cleaning other military working dogs' teeth.

"There is no specific veterinary dentistry training program," he said. "However, it is very similar to working on human teeth. A dog's teeth are shaped differently than human teeth but have a very similar composition, so all of the same principles that we apply to human teeth also apply to a dog's teeth."

Since the dental flight staff wasn't sure what to expect before looking at Mix's teeth, they set up the room with all equipment necessary to do a wide range of dental procedures while the dog was under anesthesia.

Luckily, nothing too unexpected came up during the procedure.

"It went great," said Master Sgt. Rich Thorpe, NCOIC of the dental flight. "Our whole dental team was able to take part in this unique experience. We cleaned his teeth thoroughly, took a few dental radiographs and placed two protective sealants on Mix."

Captain Stevenson thought it was a good chance for everyone to learn.

"Not very many people get this opportunity," he said. "It will be a memorable experience that I am sure I will talk about for a long time. In addition, we took photos and will use these as training tools for future cases."

Now, Mix is back home in the dog kennels and can continue to do his job. The veterinary staff, as well as his handler, can be confident he is not in pain and will do what his is trained to do.

"I'm happy with the work the dental team did," said Senior Airman Daniel Koski, who has been working with Mix for more than a year. "His teeth are all nice and shiny."

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