Dental Squadron gets into the roots of military working dogs

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By Airman 1st Class Andrew Moua, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — Dentists from the 2nd Dental Squadron recently performed a root canal on a 2nd Security Forces Military Working Dog named Zzeki at the Veterinary Treatment Facility, here.

MWDs like Zzeki go to the Vets for bi-annual health checkups and receive any care they need to stay mission ready.

“Zzeki came to the facility for a canal because of worn down teeth,” said Dr. Darrin Olson, the base veterinary medical officer. “After a while, and especially in older dogs, a dog’s teeth wear down through constant use and this can cause the dog pain which can impact their ability to bite.”

When the vet requires more advanced equipment and a broader skill set for their patients, like dental care, the 2nd DS is there to lend its expertise.

“My job as a vet is to provide the best medical care for the MWDs on Barksdale, so they can remain fit to perform their duties,” said Olson. “The assistance of the 2nd DS brings over more specialized equipment and skill sets that we don’t have here at the clinic, and in this particular case, performing root canals.”

Being able to operate on a canine patient is not always easy; there are difficulties involved in crossing species.

“The largest difference in patients is the length of the tooth,” said Maj. (Dr.) Richard Howard, 2nd DS chief of endodontics. “In this case of performing a root canal, the tooth is longer and thinner, requiring us to change the tools and techniques we use.”

Working together with the base vet introduces and refreshes skills the dental squadron doesn’t exercise often, and their impact is one that cannot be ignored.

“During dental school there are lectures and pictures to familiarize us with canine anatomy,” said Capt. (Dr.) Stephen Boh, 2nd DS dental resident. “The best way to learn this is to actually perform the operation. I feel what I’m learning now will have an impact in my career when I’m down range and I could possibly be the only dental specialist in the area to help keep MWDs mission ready.”

The care provided by the joint effort of the base vet and 2nd DS provides peace of mind to 2nd SFS as well.

“Just like any other Airman, the MWDs are going to be distracted by pain from an untreated tooth,” said Tech. Sgt. Clayton Tebbetts, 2nd SFS MWD kennel master. “If they don’t have the proper care, it directly affects their safety and duties. Additionally it impacts our ability to safeguard Barksdale.”

When it comes to keeping Barksdale’s furry compatriots healthy and ready to react to any situation, the efforts of the base vet and 2nd DS pay off.

“In the end, it’s all for the best quality of care,” said Olson. “With both the base vets and dental squadron working together, we can provide the 2nd SFS MWDs with the best possible care and keep them ready to protect Barksdale and its assets.”