Surgical guides made easy

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Abby Finkel
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
While a missing tooth is likely not life-threatening, it can be an inconvenience or aesthetically displeasing.

Dental implants are one of the methods dentists use to fix this problem.

There are multiple ways for a dentist to insert an implant, but one of the most accurate methods is by using a dental surgical guide.

For the 48th Dental Squadron, however, getting surgical guides made and delivered in a timeframe that meets their patients’ needs has proven to be a challenge.

Working out of a tidy workshop by the flightline, the Air Force Repair and Enhancement Program is partnering with the dental lab to print dental surgical guides using a 3-D printer.

"It comes down to availability and speed of care for not only military members, but also dependents," said Master Sgt. David Marshall, 48th Maintenance Group AFREP manager.

Before working with AFREP, the dental lab would send the dental scans to San Antonio. There, the scans were put into planning software and turned into a 3-D graphic guide capable of being replicated on a 3-D printer.

"The hard part was San Antonio sending the guides back to us,” said Lt. Col. Richard Buck, 48th DS Dental Lab flight commander.

At best, it took at least three to four weeks for the guides to arrive in England, he said.

The collaboration with AFREP saved time and money.

The printed guides travel across base, rather than across an ocean, to get to the dental lab. The partnership also ensures the dental lab receives the guides in time for surgery.

"If we're going to improve the quality of life for active duty and dependents, then this helps us do it in a more effective fashion," Buck said.

The dental lab plans to further streamline the process by printing the guides on their own in-house 3-D printer.