Written by Kera Mashek, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
FAYETTE (KWWL) -
Getting and keeping medical professionals in rural Iowa is challenging. In fact, when it comes to dentists—the state estimates 55 of our 99 counties don't have enough dentists. The problem is likely to get worse as many dentists are now reaching retirement age.
At the end of this year, Fayette is poised to lose its only dentist, when he retires. But the city believes keeping a dentist is extremely important. And it's working to provide financial incentives to bring a new doctor to town.
Dr. Rudy Kraus loves to see people smile. And that's why he's spent the past 30 years brightening smiles as Fayette's only dentist.
"Your patients become your friends. You know, we're into the second and third generation of car with the same families," Kraus said.
Many patients like Helen Scheidel have been coming to Dr. Kraus for almost as long as he's been in business. And over the years, she's come to realize the value of having a dentist in her hometown.
"Within a few blocks I can meet the needs I need without going out of town. And that's what I really like," said Scheidel.
Fayette County currently has eight dentists, but seven of them are over age 50. So the city of Fayette realizes that Dr. Kraus' retirement is likely just the beginning of seeing dentists disappear from the rural area. That's why the city is working to bring a new dentist to town.
"We're fortunate that we do have a nice medical clinic here. We also have a chiropractor. And this is the third portion of it. So we feel if we can keep a dentist here, we have most of the bases covered," said Fayette Mayor Bill Dohrmann.
The city's already pitched in $10,000 and Upper Iowa University has contributed $5,000 to help recruit a new dentist.
"We have a lot of students who are a long way from home, and dental emergencies happen for everyone. So we want to make sure we're portraying Fayette as a community where they can have their needs met and that includes their medical needs," said Andrew Wenthe with Upper Iowa University.
Neighboring communities are expected to add $10,000 more to the dentist recruit fund, a total that could then by matched by a $25,000 state grant and $50,000 from Delta Dental, for a total of $100,000 to help a potential new dentist pay back student loans.
Together, the community is optimistic that its efforts will pay off, so that once Dr. Kraus quits cleaning teeth, Fayette can find another dentist to keep patients like Helen Scheidel smiling.
Fayette has already met with one perspective dentist and has had inquiries from a few more. So the city is hopeful there will be a new dentist in town by early next year.
Last spring, the Iowa legislature decided to provide funding for two $25,000 matching grants to help rural communities like Fayette recruit dentists. The money is a supplement to a loan repayment grant program the state's largest dental provider, Delta Dental, has to encourage new dentists to work in small communities.
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