Taking the pain out of going to the dentist

Aviators at RAAF Base Tindal needing wisdom teeth removed can thank Sergeant Deborah Williamson for eliminating the 700km round trip to Darwin.

CAPTIONSergeant Deborah Williamson, right, receives the McCarthy Rowbottom Jones Memorial Award by Group Captain John Rollo. Story by Corporal Melina Young.

When Sergeant Williamson joined 2 Expeditionary Health Service in 2021, she was determined to improve efficiency and safety in dental practices.

Although they had good systems, Sergeant Williamson wanted to improve things.

The practice manager spent years acquiring specialised equipment and implementing new processes, and with the help of her team, ensured smooth operations.

After a specialised dentist was posted to the section, Sergeant Williamson researched and obtained approval for the equipment to remove wisdom teeth locally.

“The feedback we get from patients is great. They appreciate not having to travel so far for this procedure,” she said.

Sergeant Williamson was awarded the McCarthy Rowbottom Jones Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to ADF operational health support.

The McCarthy Rowbottom Jones Memorial Award is named in honour of Squadron Leader Paul McCarthy, Flight Lieutenant Lynne Rowbottom and Sergeant Wendy Jones, who were killed in the Sea King helicopter accident on the island of Nias, Indonesia, in 2005.

“I’m one person chosen out of many who work so hard, but I was incredibly proud and grateful,” she said.

Last year, Sergeant Williamson and her team dedicated Fridays to working at the dental surgery in Katherine, not only maintaining their skills through clinical placement but also contributing to reducing the community’s four-week wait to see a dentist.

“It’s never nice when someone is in pain, so our goal was to help bring down their waitlist and support our local community,” she said.

She also implemented a more efficient sterilisation system for Katherine’s dental surgery.

Sergeant Williamson’s dedication to enhancing practices in Defence and civilian dental facilities in Katherine also earned her a bronze commendation.

“My initial response was ‘wow, this is just for doing my job?’,” she said.

Her cost-effective improvements were credited with advancements in dental administration and maintenance requirements.

Before joining the Air Force, Sergeant Williamson worked in preventive medicine and as an Army dental assistant.

Previously, she was a production engineer at a fridge and washing-machine company.

“Entering the dental field wasn’t driven by a dream or passion, I simply wanted to try something different,” she said.

“The job seemed exciting, offering daily interactions with different patients and continuous learning, and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Sergeant Williamson describes herself as a perfectionist, using this quality to drive her leadership.

“I often do more than what’s required, in both my work and home life,” she said.


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