Nothing but the Tooth

  • Published
  • By A1C Robert Hicks
  • 509 Bomb Wing PA

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Imani Bryant strives in her career to improve the lives of every Airman or civilian she takes care of or leads.

She is the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Air Force Dental Readiness Assurance Program in the 509th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, and she believes her job is essential to the 509th Bomb Wing’s mission.

“Educating and supporting members when it comes to dental is a small, but mighty factor to keep our mission going,” she said. “We can’t fly, fight, or win if we’re distracted with dental pain.”

Bryant, who enlisted as a dental assistant, attests that the dental career field has afforded her both knowledge and the opportunity to benefit people's lives throughout her career.

“She absolutely loves the dental career field,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Breeanna Thompson, Bryant’s supervisor and the flight chief of Preventative Dentistry at the 509th OMRS. “While treating patients she enjoys getting to know Airmen and making them feel valued.”

Being a dental assistant requires a lot of technical training, which can pose a challenge, but Bryant said those who rise to the challenge can find a fulfilling career in the Air Force.

“Dental can be a rabbit hole of a job,” she said. “What I mean by that is there are so many things you can learn with each specialty within dental as it changes and continues to improve. Not everyone is cut out for this type of job.”

Bryant said dental health is critical to the U.S. Air Force’s mission and can greatly affect a person’s well-being across the board, from things such as minor pains to much more serious afflictions.

“Like mental health, it can be easily neglected and turn into a more serious situation later,” she said. “Dental is not a medical field that most people first think of as important until they can’t eat or they experience pain that's unbearable.”

Bryant’s job goes deeper than cleaning teeth and filling cavities, and Airmen must maintain their dental health with regular checkups to ensure they are ready for deployments.

“We want to ensure that any distractions or potential emergencies are resolved prior to leaving so our members can be fully focused on the mission at hand,” said Bryant.

She took it upon herself to help people be more comfortable with dental health and develop a greater understanding of how it affects their lives.

“I enjoy teaching people because there is a passion I display that inspires patients to elevate how they take care of themselves,” said Bryant. “People aren’t jumping up and down to come to dental, however when they do come, my goal is to make it a memorable experience.”

Bryant, who also assumed the role of NCOIC of the Air Force Dental Readiness Assurance Program at Whiteman AFB, strives to be just as passionate as a leader as she is a teacher.

“She is an advocate for resiliency in her everyday life,” Thompson said. “She lives it and teaches it regularly and passionately helps navigate others through stressful situations. She recognized signs of stress in three airmen and took it upon herself to provide them with resiliency skills and resources for their mental health.”

Bryant, by taking care of her patients and the Airmen that she leads, helps ensure that the 509th Bomb Wing can continue its mission of global strike, anytime, anywhere.