Rep. Peterson hears about rural dental access during Willmar visit

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By Anne Polta, West Central Tribune, Aug 19, 2014, WILLMAR – The challenges of rural access to dental care were outlined for Rep. Collin Peterson during a tour Tuesday morning of the Rice Regional Dental Clinic at Rice Memorial Hospital.
Peterson, a longtime Democratic congressman who represents Minnesota’s Seventh District and is seeking re-election, did a lot of listening as he visited with staff and hospital leaders about issues ranging from patient demographics to funding.

It was the first time Peterson has been to the Rice Regional Dental Clinic. The clinic, which opened in 2007, provides dental care to low-income and uninsured patients and is also a rural training site for students in the dentistry, dental hygiene and dental therapy programs at the University of Minnesota. Operated in partnership with the university, it is believed to be the only hospital-based dental training site in the U.S.

Peterson’s tour took him through the clinical areas, where students in blue scrubs were working on patients while instructors watched and supervised.

Demand is high, explained Dr. Linda Jackson, program director. “Our clinic is basically for the patient that cannot find care anywhere else.”

Since the clinic opened, it has seen 8,000 new patients from 17 Minnesota counties. The average dentist in solo practice has about 1,500 patients.

The daily schedule is busy but “we always make sure everything fits,” Jackson said. “We keep the students busy.”

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