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Marshfield Clinic sinking its teeth into rural dental care

The Laird Center of Medical Research broke ground in September 2006 in Marshfield and is one of the Marshfield Clinic's campus of Marshfield Clinic, a not-for-profit multi-specialty physician practice. (Rendering courtesy of the Marshfield Clinic)

The Laird Center of Medical Research broke ground in September 2006 in Marshfield and is one of the Marshfield Clinic's not-for-profit multi-specialty physician practices. (Rendering courtesy of the Marshfield Clinic)

By Ann Knoedler

If the Marshfield Clinic can come up with at least $10 million in just over five years, the state of Wisconsin will provide the other $10 million in the form of a grant, and a rural dental education outreach facility will be built in Marshfield.

On April 7, the Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance voted to authorize the bonding for this project. The clinic’s deadline to match the money is June 30, 2015.

The plan is to train dentists for rural practice and, in turn, address the deplorable state of affairs regarding access to dental care in north-central Wisconsin, for both the insured and uninsured. Apparently even those with insurance are on long waiting lists at the few dental offices up north.

I’m sure this isn’t news to those who follow the news –- it’s been covered by most of the state newspapers.

But did you know that when it comes to dental care for children, our entire state scored only a C in the Pew Study from February 2010?

Surely we can do better than that.

I understand this is a complex issue. Dentists don’t like to take low-income Medicaid patients because they’re not reimbursed enough for their services. I get it. I wouldn’t want to be underpaid either; plus not enough dentists want to move to central Wisconsin, especially north of a line extending from Green Bay to La Crosse.

Is it the weather or are there more low-income patients up there? And truth be told, not everyone understands the basic importance of taking care of their teeth, so there’s the education factor as well.

I hear some in the state legislature labeling this $10 million offer from the state as pork. I disagree.

Improvements to public health are essential if we want to keep the quality of life good for all of our residents. The Marshfield Clinic isn’t some fly-by-night business; they have a proven record of connecting people with health and dental care.

I don’t like going to the dentist. But I’m sure glad that I have dental insurance and can choose from a wide variety of dentists when I need to have some work done. In fact, if I’m unhappy with the one I’m seeing, my selection is so extensive that I can select another.

Let’s spread the wealth to north-central Wisconsin.

Ann Knoedler is the lead data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She has perfect teeth.

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