‘No-shows’ take big bite out of dental clinic’s efficiency

Missed or broken appointments at the Patch Barracks Dental Clinic have taken a big bite out of the clinic’s ability to provide care to service members and their families.

In the past 12 months, the clinic could have seen more than 1,200 additional patients if only 1,298 “no show” active duty and family member patients had cancelled their appointments in a timely manner. 

These missed or “failed” appointments result in clinical inefficiency and diminished dental readiness within the military population, according to dental officials.

For family members who want to be seen, it only adds insult to injury.  

“While it can sometimes be difficult to get an appointment, this is not because the dental clinic doesn’t want to see family members — it’s due to constraints placed by Congress on staffing and eligibility,” said Col. Julio Gonzales, the Patch Barracks Dental Clinic commander.

Army dental clinics are funded based on the population of active duty service members alone, unlike the Army health clinics, which are funded and staffed for the majority of the community, including family members.

“Our mission is improve the oral health and dental readiness of supported service members,” said Gonzales. These include active duty service members and activated reservists assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart for more than 30 days.

“Active duty readiness is the number one priority … because that’s our mission,” said Gonzales.

The clinic strives to meet the Dental Command’s dental readiness goal of 100 percent. This means that all of the active duty service members in the Stuttgart military community must have a dental exam every year.  

However, where family member care is concerned, 95 percent is what is mandated for space available care. 

Currently, as of May 10, readiness at the dental clinic is 88 percent.

This is because many of the service members who have not had their annual exams have not yet returned for follow-up treatment, while others are still due for an exam, according to Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cordova, dental clinic noncommissioned officer in charge.

When the dental clinic has met its readiness goal, it can then schedule appointments for command-sponsored family members on a space available basis, per the Europe Regional Dental Command policy.

Yet the clinic provides care for family members, even while under the readiness goal, on a standby basis.

Here in Stuttgart, family members can call the clinic in the morning, and if there are cancelled appointments for that day, book those time slots.

“We try to accommodate them as best we can,” Gonzales said. “In fact, we enjoy seeing family members.”

Fortunately, family members of active duty military, as well as reservists and their family members also have cost-effective access to dental care through the Tricare Dental Program. 

This paid dental insurance plan helps offset out-of-pocket expenses for dental care received from host nation providers. Enrollment in the plan is not automatic.

Retirees and their family members are seen on a standby basis only, and are not appointed. The Tricare Retiree Dental Program is an insurance program set up specifically for retirees.

However, dental clinic officials stress that everyone in the community has access to emergency dental care at the Patch Barracks Dental Clinic for the relief of pain, bleeding, swelling and dental issues requiring medication.

Learn more about the Tricare Dental Program at www.tricaredentalprogram.com. More information on the retiree plan is available at www.trdp.org.

For more information about the Patch Barracks Dental Clinic, or to schedule an appointment, call 430-8626/civ. 0711-680-8626.

To arrange a Family Readiness Group briefing, call 430-4324/civ. 0711-680-4324 or 0162-270-1867.