Florence Fourstar, a resident of Wolf Point, has occupied her time since her retirement as a grandmother. Part of that is taking her grandchildren to dentists all the way to Williston, North Dakota, about 100 miles away. She made the nearly 90-minute trip last month for her granddaughter.
From what she saw, Fourstar said dentists at IHS will see emergency patients in the morning before accepting those with scheduled appointments. People without an appointment are turned away. Going through IHS for her dental care since the early 1990s, she has gone years without having a properly treated front tooth. As a result, she needed to have the entire top row of teeth pulled out in June 2019. She did not receive a prosthesis until a year later.
“I’m still not happy with them, but they’re free,” she said.
IHS currently has fewer than 10 dentists to provide services to more than 10,000 people, all in towns on the 3,200 square mile reserve, according to Dana Buckles, board member and chair of the tribal health committee. and social services.
Buckles said declaring an emergency is the first step towards initiating discussions with IHS, which has a regional headquarters in Billings. The shortage of dentists available in Fort Peck stems from a lack of money and time. An accreditation process for prospective dentists at IHS’s facilities in Poplar and Wolf Point can take anywhere from six months to a year.