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Maxillofacial prosthodontics brings normalcy to wounded patients

Air Force Maj. Stephen Cherrington (right), 59th Dental Group maxillofacial prosthodontist, checks the fitting of retired Army Master Sgt. Todd Nelson’s prosthetic ear at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Air Force Maj. Stephen Cherrington (right), 59th Dental Group maxillofacial prosthodontist, checks the fitting of retired Army Master Sgt. Todd Nelson’s prosthetic ear at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The 59th Medical Wing's Maxillofacial Prosthetics Department is one of only a few in the Department of Defense that creates prosthetic body parts, such as eyes, ears and noses. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — Most people have no idea what “maxillofacial” means, but to wounded warriors with traumatic injuries the word inspires hope. 

Disfigured by circumstances while abroad or at home, maxillofacial prosthodontics gives wounded warriors, veterans and civilians a chance at living a normal life. 

“The specialty improves quality of life by restoring or replacing oral and associated facial structures with artificial substitutes such as silicone prostheses, acrylic prostheses, metal frameworks, and a combination of all the materials,” said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Jose Villalobos, 59th Dental Group oral maxillofacial prosthetics program director. 

“We conduct a 12-month 59th Medical Wing Maxillofacial Prosthetics Fellowship Program that provides a one-of-a-kind comprehensive experience, promoting interservice jointness,” said Villalobos. 

The dental group specializes not only in dental care, but also in oral and maxillofacial surgeries to help wounded warriors. 

“We have great patients to work with because they are really appreciative, and they truly appreciate the service we provide,” said Air Force Maj. Stephen Cherrington, 59th DG maxillofacial prosthodontist.  “I think it goes back to giving them back a chance. We are improving their quality of life. 

“I don’t know where else wounded warriors would go to get the help they need if it wasn’t here. I find it very valuable and I’m very pleased that this program exists today,” said retired Army Master Sgt. Todd Nelson. 

Maxillofacial prosthetics fellows use their expertise to decide the best way to improve a patient’s quality of life and bring back a sense of normalcy. Prosthetic noses, ears, jaws, even eyes can be made with silicone or hard acrylic resin. 

“The maxillofacial staff honestly treats you as an individual. You are very important when you come here; it’s like everyone gets the red carpet treatment,” said Nelson, who serves as a spokesperson for wounded warriors. 

Providing patients with prosthetics may be a small step in moving forward, but it is also something that gives them the motivation to get back on their feet. 

“What has happened to you doesn’t define you; what defines you is how you react to it.  I am actually just a walking billboard of that cliché,” said Nelson.  “But the truth is, it’s really how you react to it and not what happens.” 

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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