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Petty Officer 3rd Class Dwan Pamaran and Lt. Cmdr. Richard Laing work on a patient at the new oral/maxillofacial surgery suite at the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan, on Wednesday.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Dwan Pamaran and Lt. Cmdr. Richard Laing work on a patient at the new oral/maxillofacial surgery suite at the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan, on Wednesday. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Getting your wisdom teeth pulled at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka used to involve several trips — including up and down floors in a hospital gown.

But a one-stop shop officially opened Wednesday at the hospital that will give patients “private practice” treatment for oral surgery, said Lt. Cmdr. Richard Laing, the hospital’s oral/maxillofacial surgeon.

“What we had before worked, but it wasn’t very patient-friendly,” Laing said of the old method. That meant patients getting oral surgery would first check in on the 5th floor, then get in a hospital gown for surgery and recovery, even for simple molar extractions.

“This is a better way,” Laing said.

Oral surgery in Yokosuka means dental implants for active-duty patients, trauma, bone grafts and pathology. But wisdom teeth extractions are the most common procedure, Laing said.

“There’s always a demand for wisdom teeth — most people have them and we work with a young, mostly 18- 24-year-old population,” Laing said.

The new suite is three to four times larger than Laing’s old space, which allows him to see more patients — 15 to 20 a week compared to the previous 12, he said. The new digs also feature a digital panoramic X-ray machine that will eventually allow medical practitioners easy access a patients’ pictures online worldwide, he said. It also will be less wear and tear on the hospital’s other departments now that oral surgery is consolidated in one area, he added.

It also may help lessen a child’s fear of the dentist as the new space allows for “conscious sedation” for children who need help relaxing for oral surgery, said Lt. Cmdr. Glynn Spencer, the hospital’s director of dental services and pediatric dentist.

“We want children to not be afraid and want to come back to the dentist,” Spencer said.

The step follows the general movement toward more patient-centered care, Laing said.

“It shouldn’t matter if you’re in a military hospital, private practice or out in town in Japan,” Laing said. “We should have the same standard of care, if not better.”

Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Donald Arthur was visiting U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and stopped in to cut the ribbon Wednesday.

“Everything is all in one place,” Arthur said. “As it should be.”


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