by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
5/1/2015 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Three
Airmen completed a two-year dental hygiene program April 29, 2015 at
Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C. The program is part of the
Air Force sponsored dental hygiene training scholarship program.
Technical Sgt. Terina Waiganjo and Staff Sgts. Sandy Molina and Hollynd
Walker became the Air Force's newest dental hygienists by earning their
associates degrees and passing the Dental Hygiene National Board Exam
and state board examinations for licensure.
The program, which began in 2008, currently allows four dental
assistants, staff sergeants and above, to attend Trident Technical
College full time while remaining on active duty.
"This is a wonderful program which is considered to be one of the best
in the nation," said Master Sgt. Caroline Bunce. "It increases the
capabilities of dental care we can provide to our military members."
Bunce is the 628th Aerospace Medicine Squadron dental flight NCO in
charge that is the liaison between the military students and the school.
Dental hygienists differ from dental assistants by providing specialized
care such as examining teeth and gums, cleaning patient's teeth,
applying preventative treatments and administering local anesthetics.
Each year active duty dental assistants throughout the Air Force apply
for the program. Application requirements include meeting with a board,
completing all required prerequisite courses and having a competitive
grade point average. There are only two dental hygiene programs in the
Air Force; the other is located in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Colonel Michael Cunningham, Air Force Dental Corps director and Air
Force Medical Service Recruitment and Force Sustainment chief,
congratulated the graduates and looks forward to future accomplishments
from the new hygienists, he said.
"We are proud to foster highly qualified Airmen who will provide
outstanding support to ensure our force is mission capable and ready for
deployment," Cunningham said.
According to Bunce, civilian hygienists who work for the Air Force
cannot deploy or work in remote locations. The Air Force currently has
60 active duty hygienists who are readily deployable throughout the
world to provide healthy oral care for Airmen.
"Our newest hygienists have broadened their skills and capabilities and
are ready to enhance the dental care for our service members worldwide,"
Bunce said. "We currently have four other Airmen who are set to
graduate next year who are doing really well so far in the program."
During the program, students are required to work in a dental clinic to
ensure skills taught in the classroom are perfected and applied to
actual patients. The three military students conducted their clinical
trials on the base with military members in need of dental care.
"Our dental flight has a wonderful relationship with the faculty at
Trident Technical College and we look forward to working with them in
the future to produce more highly qualified hygienists," Bunce said.