PULASKI BARRACKS, Germany - As a former self-described Army "brat," Maj. Kourtney Logan is uniquely able to identify and empathize with the youngsters she cares for on a daily basis.
Logan, who is a pediatric dentist at the Pulaski Dental Clinic, is responsible for providing dental care to the children of service members living in the Kaiserslautern, Germany Military Community.
Her scope of care includes "providing their oral care -- whether it be cleanings, fillings, and extractions if necessary -- but also taking care of those kids who are unable to cooperate," Logan said. "That could mean taking them to the operating room to get dental treatment done, or even doing sedations here in the clinic."
Logan said she has always had an interest in working with kids and helping to shape their oral habits.
"Just in terms of dentistry, working one on one with people and having an impact on them as soon as they leave your chair is really powerful," Logan said. "When you add kids to that dimension, you get to influence their overall lifestyle. To be able to treat a child before disease has occurred and to encourage them to have healthy oral habits is really fulfilling."
And while Logan has worked with her fair share of Soldiers, as she was the brigade dentist for her unit at Fort Bragg, N.C., she said kids are a lot more fun and always keep her on her toes.
"They are very honest and that always challenges me to bring my best because I know that is what they expect."
But she also acknowledges that working with kids can present its own set of challenges, something she has learned to work through.
"I think it's really important to just be really honest and always be transparent with them," Logan said. "Kids will tell you exactly how they feeling in the moment. So you've got to acknowledge where they are coming from and meet them where they are. We may not get everything done in one appointment, but if the parents are committed to the process then I am committed to taking the best care of them that I can."
Logan said that she pulls from her own experiences as a military child in order to better understand what her patients are going through.
"I see these children who are living all over the world -- and of course, kids don't get a say -- but I identify with them," she said. "I think I put a little more heart in to what I do because I know what they are going through and because I know that it is a very special experience being a military child."
For Logan, empathizing with her patients, especially those who are getting ready to move is easy, as her father retired from the Army after 30 years of service, and she experienced many of the same emotions she sees in them.
"Seeing some of the kids come in, especially those getting ready to move, just knowing what their nervousness may be -- starting a new school or the friends they are going make -- I always try and empathize and talk to them a little more."
Most of Logan's counterparts in dental school went on to work in the civilian sector, but she says that being a military dentist gives her a breadth of experience they aren't getting. And while Logan may be practicing pediatric dentistry in her current assignment, she could find herself on the frontlines in her next, caring for Soldiers, so maintaining a balance is important.
"One thing that is great about being a pediatric dentist in the military is that it really challenges me beyond the dental chair," Logan said. "So one day I could be at the range or I could be doing physical training -- but those different experiences, and developing myself as a leader, I know makes me a better pediatric dentist."
According to Logan, dental readiness starts early, it doesn't matter if you are a kid or a Soldier, being dentally ready is important for everyone.
"Dental readiness is important just because you want to be ready to fight. And just like any kid who doesn't want to have a toothache going to school, any Soldier who is on the frontline, dealing with that when they are far away from home and have so many other things to think about -- you don't want them to have to battle with that too."
February is Children's Dental Health Month, this is a great time to make your child an appointment with your local dental clinic. To find a clinic near you, visit https://rhce.amedd.army.mil/dencom-europe/index.cfm.
Five tips from a pediatric dentist:
1) Fight the good fight!
No matter how much of a fight it is -- and parents, it will probably be a fight --make sure to help your kids brush their teeth at night. Keep at it, be disciplined and eventually it will become a familiar habit.
2) Use a fluoride toothpaste.
If your child is younger than three and hasn't mastered spitting, just use a smear of toothpaste. But if they are older than three and can spit, you should use a pea size squeeze of toothpaste-- especially here in Germany where off base there is no fluoride in the water.
3) Say no to Gummies!
Avoid candy as much as possible, but in particular, candies that will stick to the teeth and cause cavities.
4) Say yes to healthy foods!
Keep a nice healthy diet. Limit snacking and choose healthy options -- String cheeses, meats, nuts, etc., are all great choices. I also urge parents to wait as long as possible to introduce juice to a child and when you do, dilute it as much as possible with water -- so it is basically water, with a little splash of color.
5) Establish a Dental Home!
If we want to stay as prevention minded as possible, we need to see your child. If you suspect a cavity, please bring them in and from there we can develop a treatment plan based on their risk.