All smiles: state sees increase in dentists

2013-09-29T00:20:00Z All smiles: state sees increase in dentistsBy HANNAH JOHNSON | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

North Dakota has seen a steady increase in dentists in the past few years, including in the Bismarck area.

There are just shy of 400 dentists practicing in the state now, according to the North Dakota Board of Dental Examiners.

It compares with 320 five years ago.

The membership in the North Dakota Dental Association has increased by 20 percent over the past 10 years, which is pretty dramatic, said Joseph Cichy, the association executive director. The increase in the past few years has been particularly notable, he said.

Sixty-nine dentists are licensed in Bismarck. The board doesn't keep track of the increase from year to year in specific cities, but, anecdotally, it has seen a rise in license applications for the bigger cities like Fargo and Bismarck and in places like Williston, Dickinson and Minot, said Jacinda Simmons, who works at the board.

The board has issued 34 licenses this year and 37 last year. Before 2012, those numbers were in the 20s, Simmons said.

Young dentists coming in are originally from the state and choosing to come back, Cichy said. Older, usually out-of-state, dentists were coming because of the economic boom.

"I think those that come back like the lifestyle," he said.

Bradley King, a dentist in Bismarck for more than 30 years and one of the founders of Prairie Rose Dentistry, said he is excited to see many more North Dakota natives come back to the state to practice after graduation from dentistry school.

That's what Derik Hoerner, a dentist at A Lifetime of Smiles, did. Hoerner grew up on a farm north of Richardton and once he graduated from Creighton School of Dentistry in 2009, he headed back to his home state to work.

Hoerner said Bismarck was a city of choice for young dentists partly because many did not want to deal with the craziness of the oil patch area.

"I think it really boils down to quality of life," he said.

Hoerner and his partner dentist at A Lifetime of Smiles have considered adding another dentist, he said, and probably will if the population keeps growing.

Prairie Rose started in 1997 and now has nine dentists between two clinics. The north clinic was added less than two years ago. The practice is planning to expand to a clinic in Mandan in the next few years.

As the demand increases, Prairie Rose hires more dentists, King said. The practice has added one dentist in the past two years and will likely add more.

When he first started working in the early '80s, King said, there were a lot of people graduating from dental school and starting practices.

By 1997, when Prairie Rose started, it was one of the only practices adding dentists, King said.

That changed the past few years, he said, and the number of dentists in Bismarck is steadily increasing.

Part of the demand is coming from people in the western part of the state, where waits for denistry services are longer. King said Prairie Rose sees a large number of patients from places like Dickinson, Minot and Williston. Hoerner said it's a similar story at his practice.

"It's always a matter of staying on top of things and adapting to it," King said.

Reach Hannah Johnson at 701-250-8251 or hannah.johnson@bismarcktribune.com.

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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