Wanted: Full-time dentist

Dental Coalition search slow going

— Slow.

That is how Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition Director Janet Pearcey describes the search for a full-time dentist to work at the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition at 485 Yampa Ave.

"We've gone to some dental fairs, but right now, we're in a position where if it's a student, they won't graduate until May," she said. "So, unless it's someone who is just looking to relocate, we're kind of on hold until the graduating class comes out."

The clinic has been without a full-time dentist since Gregory Reinhold resigned in July to work at a private practice in North Carolina and apply for pediatric dentistry programs.

Dr. Dana Fujita of Steamboat Springs, Dr. Brian Edwards of Steamboat Springs and Dr. Russell Blackhurst of Bears Ears Dental Group in Craig have each agreed to help the clinic - which serves patients of all ages who are on Medicaid or Children's Health Plan Plus or who are low-income in Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Grand and Jackson counties - on a part-time basis until a full-time dentist can be hired.

"Between the three, we're kind of limping by," Pearcey said, estimating the three provide services at the clinic six to eight days a month combined.

The director's goal is to have a full-time dentist.

"Since we've opened up (the clinic) to adults, we definitely feel the need," Pearcey said. "The need is there, and we don't think we will have any problems keeping it open four days a week, so that is our intent."

Pearcey called it "a struggle" to keep a dentist at the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition long term.

"It's not just our location, but all nonprofits kind of feel that, because in some areas, we can't pay them what they would make in private practice," she said. "A lot of times, I think they come to nonprofits, get some experience and then go on to private practice.

"There is a huge dental shortage nationwide to begin with. Why? I'm not quite sure, but it has been going on for several years, and then trying to recruit to rural areas is even more difficult."

Pearcey said one way the clinic is looking to attract dentists is with a loan repayment plan, as well the clinic putting in for a health designation as an in-need area for dental care.

"Basically, we're stating that per capita, we don't have enough dentists and none that accept Medicaid, so if you get certified with that through the federal government, then they - first of all, which is huge - help you recruit nationally," she said. "They also offer a huge incentive for those who come to work at nonprofits, as far as the student loan repayment.

"So, we've put the paperwork in for that, and we're hoping that we will get that and help draw somebody to our area."

Pearcey said it's not just the dental field facing similar shortages in rural America.

"It is tough and everybody is seeing. With all of the health gatherings that they have had in our area this fall, I kind of thought I was the lone duck, but I'm not," she said. "The doctors are feeling it; Meeker is getting hit hard - I mean, our whole valley is just really feeling the crunch with the boom."

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.