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Associated Press, Published February 14 2010

Dentists stay busy in rural North Dakota areas

DICKINSON, N.D. – A shortage of dentists in rural North Dakota is a problem of distribution and not numbers, an official says.

“If you look at the number of dentists that are licensed and practicing in North Dakota, there’s an oversupply in cities like Bismarck and Fargo and an undersupply of folks serving in more rural areas,” said Jim McDonald, president of the North Dakota Dental Association.

McDonald said dental groups over the past decade have made an effort to recruit dentists to North Dakota but that many of them have gone to larger cities. Now, some dentists in rural areas are being overwhelmed with patients.

Dickinson dentist Lonnie Neuberger said he remains busy while some of his colleagues in bigger cities are having a hard time keeping their schedules full. He also said that some students he knows in dental school are more worried about being someplace where they want to live than in a place whether they are assured of staying busy.

McDonald also said lifestyle is a factor in the concentration of dentists in the larger urban areas, especially with married dentists.

“It’s more of a social reason rather than a desire not to practice there,” he said. “A lot of times a spouse may have a career and that opportunity doesn’t exist in a smaller community.”