Access to great dental care is a major piece of the overall healthcare puzzle. That is why bringing dental care to rural residents and those struggling financially is such an important focus for Southern Minnesota AHEC.
Having a local dentist or dental therapist can make a significant difference for rural and underserved populations, and one of the biggest challenges is placing professionals in these areas. Because of this, making students and professionals aware of the opportunities in rural Minnesota is important. To help spread the word, Southern Minnesota AHEC participated in the Minnesota Dental Association’s 2012 Star of the North dental meeting, April 26-28. The theme, “Make Connections, Gain Experience,” encouraged dental professionals to network and learn about current practices and clinical opportunities. More than 8,500 people attended the conference, including dentists, hygienists, students, educators and many more.
Attendees had the opportunity to network with many exhibitors, one of which was Wendy Foley, Program Coordinator of Southern Minnesota AHEC. At Foley’s exhibit, visitors learned about opportunities in rural areas for dentists. Also in attendance was Dr. Karl Self, head of the Dental Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota. Graduates of this program, which began accepting students in 2009, can provide basic services like filling cavities and oral cancer screenings under the supervision of a dentist who can be off site. This means basic, local care is available even when a dentist is not present. These services are often less expensive when performed by a dental therapist, a relief to many people struggling to pay for healthcare.
Sharing the opportunities and rewards of practicing in a rural area is a step towards providing dental care for all rural residents. Through the great programs put on by various Minnesota healthcare associations, including the Minnesota Dental Association, rural communities can look forward to better, closer and more affordable care.