Story and photos by Devin Fisher
A 13-month renovation project has transformed the Col. Boyd Lee Smith Dental Clinic from a drab, retro 1970s eyesore into a shiny, high-tech futuristic facility.
Mountain Post and U.S. Army Dental Activity Fort Carson leadership celebrated the clinic’s $10.8 million complete renovation, to include stripping the décor from its walls and replacing outdated equipment with the most-advanced dental technologies available, with an official grand reopening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 22.
“Today’s ceremony is a culmination of the efforts of many individuals who came together to make sure we have the best facility possible for our Soldiers,” said Col. John Etzenbach, U.S. Army Dental Activity Fort Carson commander.
He said the clinic had $2.3 million in initial outfitting funds which allowed them to provide its customers
with all the bells and whistles, to include digital X-ray machines, computer-aided design and manufacturing machines that use a computer generated model to make porcelain crowns and even dental chairs with massagers.
“This (is a) state-of-the-art facility that all of
Fort Carson and the (U.S. Army Dental Command) can be very proud,” Etzenbach said.
Noting everyone is grateful to advancements in technology, Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, said he is confident Soldiers will continue to receive the quality service and dedication they are accustomed to receiving from the dental corps.
“So while we have new facilities and new capabilities, the good news is we have a great tradition of those who serve our Soldiers, those who make sure they are ready to deploy,” he said.
He said it was fitting the clinic was named in honor of a former Camp Carson dental surgeon who served during World War I, World War II and the Korean War, and displayed dedication that is indicative of the dental corps, and the Army in general.
“(This clinic) really is symbolic of all that we put into making ourselves a better Army, all that we do in taking care of our Soldiers … so they can take care of our nation as they are to this day sort of far flung across the reaches of the globe,” Perkins said.
Col. Lawrence Breault, Smith Dental Clinic officer in charge, said the previous design was functional but the new technology enhances the patient’s experience by reducing the length of appointments and, in many cases, the number of required appointments. This is significant, considering most of the clinic’s patients are referred for specialty care from the other post dental facilities, he said.
“The care hasn’t changed, what we are physically doing with our hands hasn’t changed, but (the technology is) allowing us to be more efficient,” he said.
Each operatory room is equipped with digital X-rays, which means patients no longer have to get out of the chair and walk to an X-ray room, Breault said.
Col. Michael Craddock, chief of prosthodontics and renovation project officer, is most excited about the computer-aided design and manufacturing machines that make same-day crowns a reality.
“You can do it all in one appointment, with only one numbing,” he said.
Instead of two lengthy appointments, one on each end of waiting for the laboratory to make the crown, patients can be in and out in two hours, Craddock said.
The new technology will also enhance the training the clinic provides to its Advanced Education and General Dentistry Residency students. Fort Carson is one of six Army locations that teach the one-year training program where newly-commissioned dental corps officers get to work with individual specialists such as root-canal and gum-disease experts.
“When they leave here, many of them will deploy to remote areas, so it gives them additional skills that they wouldn’t normally have coming out of dental school,” Breault said.
Smith Dental Clinic operations continued during the renovation as the staff operated out of a set of 19 trailers located across Hogan Street.
The move to and from the trailers went smooth thanks to the efforts of the clinic staff.
“The staff at this clinic is the best staff I have ever worked with,” Breault said. “They exude selfless service every day.”
He said staff was rolling supplies across the street between seeing patients and leaped at the opportunity to help wherever they could.