Mobile dental office to serve area

ABOVE: Equipment is moved out of Apple Tree Dental’s mobile dental office. Fairmont’s location will soon have a mobile office that will serve the region. Photo courtesy of Apple Tree Dental.

FAIRMONT- Apple Tree Dental is finishing work on a new mobile dental office which will soon be operating in Fairmont and the surrounding region. The vehicle is expected to begin service within roughly one month and will provide preventative and restorative dental care to schools, senior living facilities, group homes and other locations.

“We’re excited to be at the very beginning of having that fired up down in Fairmont,” said Apple Tree Dental CEO, Dr. Michael Helgeson.

Helgeson said Fairmont’s mobile office was developed in close collaboration with Mayo Clinic and the two organizations have plans for a series of joint ventures which would involve the mobile dental office working in tandem with Mayo Clinic’s mobile health clinic for events that could provide both medical and dental services. Apple Tree Dental’s Fairmont office is located within Mayo Clinic’s Fairmont Facility and the two organizations collaborated to build a new garage which holds both vehicles.

The mobile dental office is also funded with grants from The Schmeeckle Foundation.

The office will be based out of a large truck which carries dental equipment and arrives ahead of dentists at a location where equipment is offloaded into an indoor space. Unlike the Mayo Clinic’s mobile health clinic which is equipped with exam rooms and a medical laboratory, no patients will be provided with services inside the vehicle.

The mobile office was originally planned to be fully operational last year, but pandemic-related supply shortages delayed the delivery of the truck. The equipment which the truck would carry has been in use at the Fairmont dental office while portions of the building were being remodeled.

Currently Apple Tree Dental operates a network of such vehicles across the state which regularly visits approximately 150 sites with a service range that typically cover areas within a one hour drive of an office location. Helgeson said Fairmont was selected to receive the mobile office because it’s located amidst underserved rural communities far from other Apple Tree Dental offices in south central Minnesota.

“Our goal over time is to have regional mobile offices so we can get to more remote areas where people have to travel long distances to get to dental care or if there’s not a dentist in the area that accepts public dental insurance,” said Helgeson.

Last year Apple Tree Dental began providing mobile dental services at three locations in Fairmont using trucks from offices in the Twin Cities or Rochester. At Fairmont High School the office worked alongside the Mayo Clinic’s sports physicals program and provided custom athletic mouth-guards to students. At Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center mobile offices allow residents to receive dental care without having to leave the living facility. Around Thanksgiving of last year mobile offices also started providing care at Fairmont Elementary School.

According to Apple Tree Dental at the three locations the offices worked with 75 patients on 119 individual dental visits providing dental services worth approximately $40,000.

“That’s pretty good for just getting started and not even having the truck,” said Helgeson.

Once the truck arrives Apple Tree Dental plans to begin providing dental services to more locations in nearby counties. Helgeson said while the organization currently does not employ any dentists licensed to practice in northern Iowa, he sees mobile office visits in the state as a logical step forward at some point in the future.

Despite the initial delay Helgeson said once the office’s new vehicle arrives he expects operations to proceed smoothly.

“We’re really excited; everyone in Fairmont has been fantastic to work with from the nursing home to the schools to the Mayo Clinic. The Schmeeckle Foundation has been super supportive and helped us adapt through the pandemic. … We’re excited to be back on our original timetable,” said Helgeson.


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