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Local teaching clinic aims to expand access to rural dental care

A patient sits upright in a dental chair and looks at a tooth diagram shown by a dentist.
Grand Rapids Dental Care
Dr. Rachel Buchert practices dentistry in Grand Rapids and serves as an adjunct professor at Minnesota North College Hibbing Campus School of Dentistry.

A teaching dental clinic at Minnesota North College - Hibbing serves patients on the Iron Range while expanding the dental workforce.

HIBBING — A local dental clinic is working to address the lack of access to dental care in Northern Minnesota.

Dr. Rachel Buchert is a dentist in Grand Rapids and serves as an adjunct professor at the Hibbing campus of Minnesota North College. She oversees dental students in their final year as they spend four weeks in Hibbing as part of their rotation.

The dental clinic at the Hibbing campus has been operating for over 20 years and currently serves over 8,000 patients. It is a partnership with the University of Minnesota’s School of Dentistry.

The students hone their skills in practical dentistry, but the rotation goes beyond just clinical knowledge. Buchert said they hope to give students “some perspective as to their social responsibility as a healthcare professional, especially in a rural area."

Two people in scrubs and masks work over a patient in a dental chair.
University of Minnesota
Students get real experience at the dental clinic at Minnesota North College Hibbing.

Buchert said there is a disparity between rural and urban areas when it comes to dental services.

“There's a lot of talk in the community that nobody's taking new patients. And I think part of that is true. But we're hoping that changes here if we can expand the workforce,” she said. “We're looking forward to the future, but right now the need is really high.”

Going to the dentist on a regular basis does more than give you a nice smile. Buchert explained regular dental visits are essential to a person’s overall health.

“If you think about everything that you eat and drink passes through your mouth and that needs to be healthy," she said. "There's a lot of research showing the association between heart disease and oral health, diabetes and oral health."

When people are faced with career choices, dentistry may not be a first choice for many.

“Well, it can be gross. There are some days that are worse than others, but I do really love my job,” Buchert said.

“I love getting to take care of people, helping them learn to smile again, making people feel better about themselves and helping people along the way. I like that every day is different.”

For more information about the dental clinic at Minnesota North College - Hibbing, you can visit their website or call 218-263-2916.

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Jennifer has worked at Northern Community Radio since 2006 and spent 17 years as Membership Manager. She shifted to a host/producer position in 2023. She hosts the Monday Morning Show and is the local host of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" a few days a week. She also writes public services announcements and creates web stories.