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Home on the Range: 3 Dental Tips for Rural Life

Living in South Dakota has its perks. From breathtaking scenery to friendly communities, it’s hard to imagine calling anywhere else home. But one of its greatest perks can also be a setback: distance from some services.

It may not bother you to drive a distance to go shopping, but even basic health services can need quite the commute – including dental care.

While South Dakota has 54 dentists per 100,000 population – a little less than the US average of 60 – there are 27 counties federally designated as dental healthcare Health Professional Shortage Areas.

Compared to urban cities, a lack of access to dental care dramatically affects rural communities. People living in the country have higher rates of untreated decay, are twice as likely to have tooth loss and a lower commitment to consistent dental care.

How can a small-town smile stay healthy? Here are 3 tips:

1. COMMIT TO A ROUTINE.

Eating right and committing to a good dental routine helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease. But it’s also important to have your teeth checked by a professional.

Even if the nearest dentist is far away, it’s still important to make an appointment  for a regular checkup. Find the dentist nearest you and schedule your next appointment.

2. SEEK OUT RESOURCES.

If a dentist is difficult to find, or if the care is out of your budget, see if one of the public health clinics in South Dakota is an option.  Some provide dental care, and on a sliding scale based on income for those that qualify, including for people without insurance. 

For kids, our mobile program includes two mobile dental trucks that travel the state and community-based staff on the Native American reservations to bring oral care to underserved communities.

3. DO NOT “DO-IT-YOURSELF.”

You’re probably handy and know how to fix everything yourself. But when it comes to dental care, you could cause more harm than good. It’s best to leave it to a professional, and save the duct tape and baling wire to fix something else.