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NMRTC Beaufort > Command Info > Public Affairs > NHB Celebrates National Dental Assistant Week

March 8, 2013

Naval Hospital Beaufort Celebrates National Dental Assistant Week

This week at Naval Hospital Beaufort, the Directorate for Dental Services hosted several fun and educational activities to recognize National Dental Assistant Week, March 3-9.

“This week is a great opportunity to honor our dental assistants for the important role they play in keeping our Sailors and Marines dentally ready,” said Cmdr. Heath Gnau, director for dental services at Naval Hospital Beaufort.  “We have close to 100 dental assistants and without their outstanding and tireless commitment to our mission, would wouldn’t be able to provide the highest quality dental care to our patients.”

In addition to several fun activities including a relay race and an “amalgam-off,” a contest to see who could do the best job at placing a filling in a dentoform with the quickest time, the dental clinic also hosted a series of educational opportunities that included Navy dental officers and senior enlisted providing information about becoming a dental laboratory technician, how to build a path to dental school, and advanced dental assistant training. 

“Dental assistants in the Navy are essential to our success at meeting the mission,” said Gnau, who was a dental assistant herself before becoming a dentist.  “They are involved in all aspects of dental care including scheduling appointments, setting up and breaking down treatment rooms, sterilizing dental instruments, and assisting the dental provider in all aspects of treatment.”

At Naval Hospital Beaufort, dental assistants are comprised of both civilians and Hospital Corpsmen who have attended the Navy’s Advanced Dental Assistant Program (ADAP) and have the 8702 Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC).  The ADAP training, a six month school in San Diego, provides corpsmen with increased dental knowledge and skills in areas that include preventive dentistry, dental restorations, and dental radiology.  After completing one year of clinical experience, ADAP graduates can challenge the Board of Dental Examiners for Registered Dental Assisting (RDA) certification in California and other states.

Hospitalman Brian Artienda, an 8702, discovered his interest in dentistry after joining the Navy.  “Being an 8702 is challenging and rewarding, and it’s a great career path,” said Artienda.  “What I do is essentially the same as a dental assistant in the civilian sector.” 

Artienda takes pride in his work and most enjoys the opportunity to do fillings and restorations.  “Really, it’s like artwork is someone’s mouth.”

Many of the civilian dental assistants who work at the hospital’s dental clinics at both Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort are graduates of the American Red Cross (ARC) dental assisting program, which is facilitated once a year by Naval Hospital Beaufort dental staff.  The program, which is open to adult military family members, consists of two weeks of classroom training followed by 600 hours of volunteer clinical, “chair-side” training completed within a six month period.  After graduating from the  program, students are fully qualified to work in a military dental clinic or, in many cases, a civilian clinic where a degree or state certificate is not required.