Free dental care comes to Hill City

By Jeff Smith

Dr. Melissa Rupert works on a patient on Nov. 28 in the mobile dental van. Rupert has her own dental practice but still volunteered her time throughout last week.

A Delta Dental van came to the Hill City School District last week. This was the third time the van visited Hill City to offer a program where children can receive free dental care in a small community.

Every child that visits the van receives full dental treatments. There were not as many participants as there have been in the past.

Last week the program saw 39 children with the total retail dollar value of the care being $31,923.

The first time the van visited Hill City was in 2013. The estimated cost per child is about $750.

The mobile dental program does exams, x-rays, space maintainers, all types of fillings and stainless steel crowns, root canals, extractions and oral hygiene.

Kris Nichols, coordinator for the Delta Dental van, said they travel in the van 42 weeks out of the year. They go to 43 communities in the state.

“The masons sponsor us here. We’re sponsored at every site,” Nichols said.

Two assistants and two dentist plus a hygienist were in Hill City doing work on the children. They come from all over the state to participate in the mobile dental program.

Melissa Rupert, who has Hill City Dental, volunteered time for the mobile dental program. She said it’s a good service for those in Hill City who don’t see a dentist.

“Parents don’t have to take off work. It’s better access,” Rupert said.

She also makes it so parents don’t have to take off work at her own office too.

Rupert has had a dental practice in Hill City for about two and a half years.

She said more adults than children are usually at her office.

“We definitely see kids at my office. We have nitrous and all of the things that help people be more comfortable,” Rupert said.

“Sometimes they (children) get more scared than adults but we end up handling it fine.”

It’s pretty rare that dentists will volunteer their time to be in the van. Most of the time there is just one dentist in the van. Dental students doing an externship will sometimes be in the van for six weeks.

Both of the vans are new and there are still many miles that are usually travelled between the mobile sites.

Nichols said they do exams on Monday and Tuesday afternoon then fill the rest of the week with treatments. 

Tin City Lodge #112 member Mikal Lewis said said the masons do fundraising for the type of project like the mobile dental van.

“A lot of the fundraising we do is for kid’s projects,” Lewis said. “This is a big one. This is one that affects the community that we can see. It’s hands-on.”

There are different businesses in the community that contribute to the funds to bring the van here. Tin City Lodge #112 assists by contributing funds too. They have six major fundraisers each year that help pay for items like the Delta Dental program.

Tori, who just moved to the area from Belle Fourche, said she first started using the mobile dental program when her daughter Birklee was two years old.

“I’m a single mom. I think it’s a great service since I don’t have dental insurance,” Tori said.

She likes the fact that the work is done right away too.

Next year, the van will be in Hill City Nov. 26-30.