No need to drive anymore for braces
By ANDREW MCGINN
That’s how long it took last week for Dr. Keith Van Beek to snip a wire poking the inside of Sadie Gilbertson’s cheek from her braces.
Until recently, though, Sadie’s mom would have had to make an extra trip to the orthodontist in Fort Dodge or Ames — and on the day before Thanksgiving, no less — to alleviate her daughter’s discomfort.
In Greene County, the days of driving 45 minutes or more one way for a five-second snip are over.
“It’s great only driving across town,” said Michele Hamilton, Sadie’s mom.
Van Beek, who came to Jefferson in 2016 to open a dentistry practice, is now able to offer orthodontics at Jefferson Family Dentistry.
For decades, local families have largely had to leave the county if they wanted their kids to have straight teeth.
Dr. Andrew Shelly, a Fort Dodge orthodontist, has an office at the Greene County Medical Center, but he’s in Jefferson only one Friday every six weeks.
Spur-of-the-moment procedures — like having a stray wire clipped — can now be handled locally.
“Literally took five seconds,” Van Beek said after sending Sadie, 13, on her way. “If you have to drive to Ames or Fort Dodge for that, that’s pretty frustrating.”
Van Beek, 32, has been undergoing specialized training in orthodontics for the past two years.
“It’s a very large commitment, time and financially,” he said, describing the process of having to fly to Detroit every other month for four days of training.
Van Beek will graduate in April, but is far enough along in the program that he’s able to begin offering orthodontics.
Already, he has between 15 and 20 orthodontic patients, he said.
“I knew there was a need for it,” he said. “I had a feeling it was a service that would be utilized pretty quickly.”
That same feeling is what led Van Beek to Greene County in the first place.
A Sheldon native who graduated in 2013 from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, Van Beek saw the need for another dentist in Greene County.
He became the county’s third dentist.
The recent retirement of Dr. Paul Klodd has reduced the number of dentists again to just two.
Greene County is lacking in all types of health care providers, according to national statistics, but dentists are in particularly short supply.
There’s just one dentist for every 3,000 people, according to the 2018 County Health Rankings compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
That’s a far higher ratio than the Iowa average of one dentist for every 1,560 people — and worse yet when you examine the healthiest U.S. counties, which boast one dentist for every 1,280 people.
Carroll County has a ratio of one dentist for every 1,700 people.
Those statistics, by the way, were compiled back when Greene County still had three dentists.
Van Beek built Jefferson Family Dentistry with the future in mind, he said, leaving enough space for him to add another dentist to the practice at some point.
At first, Van Beek was like every other general dentist, and had to refer orthodontic patients to specialized providers elsewhere.
Finally, with enough parents asking, he began telling people he was in the process of being able to offer orthodontics himself.
Hamilton, who works as a radiology tech at the Greene County Medical Center, is one of those parents who decided to wait.
Rather than going to Fort Dodge, Van Beek put on her daughter’s braces in September.
“On average,” Van Beek said, “braces are a two-year process.
“Over the span of two years, that’s a lot of trips.”