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At the Camp Walker dental clinic in Taegu, soldiers haul away a dental chair as they ready the clinic for a year-long, stem-to-stern renovation. From left are Sgt. Park Sung-min, Cpl. Conrad Rath and Pfc. Jang Eun-soo, all of the 618th Medical Company.
At the Camp Walker dental clinic in Taegu, soldiers haul away a dental chair as they ready the clinic for a year-long, stem-to-stern renovation. From left are Sgt. Park Sung-min, Cpl. Conrad Rath and Pfc. Jang Eun-soo, all of the 618th Medical Company. (Oh Dong-keun / Courtesy of U.S. Army)

PYONGTAEK, South Korea — The Army is preparing to renovate the Camp Walker dental clinic in Taegu, South Korea, to nearly double its size and gear it to give a greater range of services to a growing patient population.

The $2.3 million stem-to-stern renovation is slated to start Dec. 22, with the clinic due to reopen in January 2006, said Army Lt. Col. Gen B. Paek, the clinic’s officer-in-charge.

The existing clinic is a one-story, ranch-style structure that measures 4,800 square feet; the revamped structure will remain at one story but will occupy about 8,000 square feet, Paek said.

“The current clinic is very old,” he said. “I think it was built 1959 time frame — about 40 years old,” he said. “And now we’re looking at total renovation of the clinic. We’ll be renovating and expanding so we can accommodate potential increased population of the Area IV community.”

Area IV currently comprises military installations in Taegu — Camp Walker, Camp Henry and Camp George; Camp Carroll in Waegwan; and Camp Hialeah in Pusan.

The U.S. military plans in coming years to consolidate its forces in South Korea into military hubs in the Pyongtaek region of central Korea and the Taegu-Pusan area in the southeast portion of the peninsula.

“It will be an improvement on the quality of dental care because everything will be new, everything will be caught up to the state-of-the-art,” Paek said. “We will have much more … state-of-art dental instruments and equipment.”

Patients no longer will have to walk to a separate part of the clinic for X-rays: Each dental treatment room will have its own attached X-ray room.

And the clinic will be able to craft crowns on the premises instead of having to ship them in from the Army’s dental lab at Fort Gordon, Ga., Paek added.

“Everything’s being FedExed” between Taegu and Fort Gordon, Paek said. “But the key thing is, if we can do it on-premises here, I have better control over selection of the shade for patient crown … I have better predictability for matching the tooth color.”

Each dental treatment room will be bigger than those of the existing clinic, and the clinic will have a more-spacious reception-waiting area.

The clinic will be fitted with 12 dental chairs, two more than in the past.

Also planned for the renovated clinic is a prosthetic lab for making dentures, bridges, crowns and implant restorations. Within the lab will be a separate ceramic lab for making porcelain crowns.

A multipurpose room will afford dentists a place to hold professional classes and discussions, and also will serve as a private consultation area in which dentists can discuss confidential treatment plans with their patients. The clinic currently has no such room.

A storage room will house dental records.

The clinic will be closed from Dec. 6 through Jan. 3, Paek said.

During that period, servicemembers needing emergency or limited routine care will need to travel to the dental clinic at Camp Carroll.

From Jan. 4 until the renovation is complete, the dental clinic will operate inside Camp Walker’s Wood Medical Clinic.

“The level of care and the degree of quality will still remain the same,” Paek said. “We’ll just have to see more patients.”

Krima Construction Co. will carry out the work under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Dental service is one of the most important quality-of-life issues for the members of our community,” said Kevin Jackson, chief spokesman for the Area IV Support Activity at Camp Henry. “Any new and improved facility that will significantly improve the service that they can provide for our residents will help to prepare this community for any changes that may occur in the near future.”

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