Fixing that smile
April 14, 2013
Sgt. DeAndre Haywood, 7233rd Medical Support Unit, decided that he wanted to be a dentist after his first day helping to treat patients as a trainee enrolled in the Dental Assistant Reclassification Course at the U.S. Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The full-time college student says he plans on switching his concentration from criminal justice to biology, which is a requirement for most dental programs. The two-phased course has two days of on the job training built into the curriculum which allows students to work with dentists at various clinics on the installation.
"It's mind-blowing how much...is actually involved in giving exams and cleaning, and doing restorations for composites," said Haywood, referring to some of the tasks he performed at the clinic. "To me, it's just exciting helping people improve their oral hygiene while trying to make sure they have that picture perfect smile."
Haywood's enthusiasm is a reflection of the passion that Course Manager Sgt. 1st Class Charlene Crouchet and four other instructors from 10th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 100th Training Division bring to the classroom.
The school graduates 60 to 100 students a year with the equipment and expertise to train active component, reserve and National Guard Soldiers.
"I feel very confident that we put out a good product," said Crouchet. "We train on the same equipment that the active duty component trains on."
Crouchet says, she stresses to students the importance of making sure that patients are comfortable and have a clear understanding of the treatment they will receive, because society has a distorted view of dentistry.
"When you hear of dentistry, whether it's in a cartoon or in real life, it's always about the pain and suffering you'll go through," Crouchet said. "I tell my students to reassure the patient that they're not gonna be in pain, and if that patient is uncomfortable, then you're right there to help reduce the pain."
The real world experiences that the instructors share with students compliment the course curriculum, according to Crouchet.
"Of course they [the students] need to learn and know what's in the book, but hearing stories from the instructors and their experiences makes the lesson so much more realistic and easy for the students," she said. "We've worked in clinics, we've worked for dentists, we've come up through the ranks as dental specialist."
Spc. Hector Torres, a student along with Haywood during the course's second phase, March 17 to April 1, 2013, said he was impressed with how detail oriented the instructors were and he used workplace safety to make his point.
"We're around sharp needles and other instruments, and you're dealing with the human body, so they're very thorough at pointing out possible dangers along with the consequences," said Torres, a former Army active duty tank mechanic currently assigned to 7220th MSU.
Haywood said his time in the classroom with Crouchet and the other instructors adequately prepared him for the two days he spent at the clinic, and he would recommend the course to any Soldier looking for a new military occupational specialty.