81st DS gets orofacial pain specialist

  • Published
  • By Steve Pivnick
  • 81st Medical Group Public Affairs
A new member of the 81st Dental Squadron staff offers care not previously available at Keesler.

Col. (Dr.) Sara Dixon arrived here in mid-August from Joint Base Lackland-San Antonio, Texas, to assume duties as director of the orofacial pain clinic. She also is a member of the faculty for the two-year advanced education in general dentistry residency program.

The colonel is one of only two orofacial pain specialists in the Air Force and serves as consultant in the field to the Air Force surgeon general.

"I work with patients with pain or disabling jaw problems, including muscle disorders, headaches and neurologic pain," she explained. "For example, people who have jaw pain often have been grinding or clenching their teeth. These activities and other contributing factors can require a considerable amount of management and possibly referrals to other services, such as neurology and behavioral medicine."

After earning a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and cell biology from the University of California at San Diego, Dixon received a doctor of dental surgery degree from the University of Iowa and a master's degree in oral biology from George Washington University, D.C., under a Navy program. A member of the Air Force for 19 years, she has worked in her current field since 2009.

The colonel pointed out that the clinic's role basically is to examine and diagnose patients and then manage their condition. She also helps make dental devices to treat sleep disorders.

"Since surgery is not often the answer when dealing with chronic pain, I have to find other means for helping the patients function and control their pain, such as medications, behavioral and physical therapies."

She said, "Because I am working with the residents who rotate through the clinic, not only do I have the ability to treat our active-duty service personnel, I also am able to care for active-duty dependents and members of the retired community."

Dixon noted that she's pleased to be able to provide her service at Keesler. Until now, it was available only at Lackland where it supported their two-year AEGD program. She said she and her partner there frequently would visit other bases with one-year AEGD programs to teach their residents about orofacial pain care.

She mentioned the field is expanding to five specialists as three dentists currently are in training.

The colonel observed that her assignment to Keesler is her first opportunity to see this part of the U.S. and she is enjoying it.

"The Coast is beautiful -- I'm excited about living here. It's ideal for outdoor activities and there is so much to do. What I've noticed most is how incredibly nice people are, especially when I am visiting stores. You just don't find this in other parts of the country."