Anchors Aweigh!

The U.S. Naval Academy feels it is setting a new standard with its updated dental clinic.

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By Kevin Henry, Managing Editor

Located in Annapolis, Md., the U.S. Naval Academy is a 338-acre complex with a brigade of 4,200 midshipmen and 1,000 active duty faculty and staff, all of whom require dental work on an ongoing basis. The Branch Dental Clinic in Annapolis was originally established in 1873 and is now located in the recently renovated Bancroft Hall on the Naval Academy grounds.

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As part of the renovation, the 100-year-old building was gutted and rebuilt to house the new 15,000-square-foot Annapolis onsite dental clinic. The renovation includes upgrades such as multifunctional dental operatories, digital radiography, and a state-of-the-art central sterilization room and laboratory. The newly designed clinic opened on Sept. 3, 2002.

The clinic now features 23 treatment rooms with 24,000 patient visits predicted annually, a true test for the newly installed equipment. According to DC Military, a Naval industry publication, the clinic previously had 18,000 patient visits a year and provided approximately $5 million worth of dental care.

The Annapolis dental clinic performs many procedures, including oral diagnosis utilizing digital radiography, oral surgery, restorative, orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, prosthodontics, implants, and preventive dentistry — cleanings, sealants, and fluoride treatments — which are the most commonly performed procedures.

"With this number of patients being treated, we cannot afford to have downtime," said Captain David Skwara, director of the clinic. "Staff members are very satisfied with the new operatories, lighting, and sterilizers that we have because they are solid, easy to use and disinfect, and allow us to operate at high patient-turnover levels."

When Captain Skwara arrived at Annapolis as the new director of the dental clinic in 2000, he had more than 20 years of clinical experience. His first initiative was to incorporate the latest technologies and equipment into the newly designed dental facility. So he worked with his staff and they decided to move forward with the most appropriate objective they knew — to best utilize the taxpayer's dollars while providing top-quality dental care for their patients.

They worked diligently to make the Academy's dental clinic a benchmark for cutting-edge dentistry, reinforcing Navy Dentistry's overall commitment to excellence. It was a bit of a risk because they also had to justify the cost and find resources for new equipment that would add value to the overall facility and the patient experience.

"We wanted to create a positive experience for our patients while optimizing dental readiness and health. The new design and equipment will allow the next generation to provide the highest-quality dental healthcare for midshipmen and the supporting staff," said Skwara.

The strategy must have worked well because the Annapolis facility has now become a test model visited by those responsible for building and equipping future Navy and Marine Corps dental clinics.

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As part of the renovation, the Academy selected new equipment such as dental chairs, units, lighting, and sterilizers by medical and dental equipment manufacturer Midmark Corporation based in Versailles, Ohio. The operatories were selected for use by the Academy because they combine the quality, styling, and design functionality of the chair, Procenter Instrument Delivery System, and lighting into a complete operatory package. But all of the operatories in the clinic are not the same. Each one is customized for a specific use and the company was willing to partner with other manufacturers to outfit each unit with the appropriate accessories and auxiliary equipment.

The facility also uses M11 sterilizers for sterilization of its handpieces. The dental clinic staff was particularly drawn to the M11's ease of use and the function where upon completion of the sterilization process, the door opens automatically and quietly to dissipate the steam and provide fast and efficient drying time of instruments.

Skwara added that all of the equipment was competitively priced and the units offered left-hand and right-hand options which helped meet a critical need for the Academy, which was to be able to accommodate a broad range of providers working with the same equipment. Twenty-five to 30 Navy dentists rotate through the facility every two to three years, including both male and female dentists whose needs can be very different when working with the same equipment.

Comfort, aesthetics, and performance became the most important drivers for Annapolis' purchase of its dental products. In fact, Skwara decided to attend the 2001 Hinman Dental Meeting to personally experience the equipment being offered to the dental market. The Annapolis dental clinic serves men and women of all shapes and sizes and the Captain wanted to be able to touch, feel, and test out the products to make sure they would satisfy all of the Annapolis patients' needs.

"Some of our patients are in the chairs for more than two hours, so comfort is a major priority for the patient, as well as easy access for the dentist who is working on them for the same amount of time," Skwara continued. "We have found that the chairs are so comfortable that our technicians sneak into the chairs when they are on break and sometimes patients even fall asleep during procedures!

"I wanted a product that would stand the test of time and a company to stand behind that product," he added.

After the purchase of the new equipment, the Annapolis technicians were quickly trained on service so that they now can fix most problems on their own. Once the decision to purchase was made, the equipment was installed in less than one month, helping to meet an aggressive installation schedule.

Note: Captain Skwara has recently been reassigned to the Pentagon where he is serving as Deputy Commander, Tri-Service Dental Clinic.

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