By Martin J. Kidston
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services has teamed up with several medical organizations in order to host a meeting that will tell the world that Montana needs better access to dental services.
The Department of PHHS announced in a newsletter that the clinic, dubbed the Montana Dental Summit: Access for the undeserved, will be the beginning of efforts to develop new initiatives that will result in better access for dental services within the state.
The issue of dental access is complex and challenging, Administrator for PHHS Nancy Ellery wrote. It is not a problem that will be solved overnight.
No one expects it to be solved overnight, but Montana residents are growing more and more distraught over the difficulty in acquiring timely dental access.
According PHHS, there are only 466 licensed dentists practicing their trade in the state of Montana. With a population of 880,000 residents, the shortage leaves 1,890 people vying to visit a single dentist. It puts a burden on both doctor and patient.
Whats more, it is suspected that the number of practicing dentists will actually decrease before things get better. As Montanas population slowly climbs, more than half of the states dentists are expected to retire early in the next century.
Teaming up with the Primary Care Association, WIC, Head Start of Montana and Health Care Financing and Resources, among others, PHHS will host the Montana Dental Summit in Helena on Nov. 18.
Dentists, dental hygienists, legislators, physicians and a slew of other professionals will be on hand to participate in the effort, which many hope will begin a progressive change in dental access.
The meeting will be held in Helena, and a MetNet satellite uplink will be broadcast at distance learning centers around the state, making it possible for those who cannot attend directly to participate.
Havre will be wired for its own link located at Montana State University-Northern in the Hagener Science Center, room 202. Organizers of the state-wide event ask that dentists and other participants RSVP by Friday, Oct. 29, in order to reserve a 20-minute interview slot over the network.
Satellite links will also be offered in Billings, Great Falls, Bozeman, Kalispell and Miles City. Contact Dental Consultant for PHHS, Cheri Seed, at (404) 444-0276 with questions.