Kalispell dentist active in outreach

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David Keim of the Glacier Dental Group has taken an active part in the local Project Homeless Connect.

Just one look.

Seriously, that’s all it took for David Keim to fall in love with the area surrounding Glacier National Park.

Keim, a Kalispell dentist, moved to East Glacier in 2002 after graduating from dental school. He was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service at the time and was working for Indian Health Services in Browning. He and his wife immediately realized they wanted daily views of the park’s mountains and scenery. His Glacier Dental Group office sports multiple photos and paintings of Rising Wolf, his favorite peak in Glacier, a constant reminder of his fascination with the park.

In the course of his work in Browning, Keim met Kalispell dentist Doug Smith and the two realized they had similar philosophies about dentistry. That led to Keim’s acquisition of Smith’s practice five years ago.

As a dental student, Keim spent two weeks in each Venezuela and Guatemala. Student dentists worked mostly in orphanages in those two outreach programs, he said. Keim also worked an externship at Crow Agency in Southeastern Montana during dental school.

Those outreach programs “helped me get my focus on public health,” Keim said. “They had a huge impact on me, as did my work at IHS. Those experiences put me where I am as a dentist.”

He’s continued to find ways reach outside a traditional dental practice since he moved to Kalispell.

Most recently, Keim helped coordinate, and then volunteered at, the Project Homeless Connect event held in June in Kalispell. A past president of the first district of the Montana Dental Association and current board member of that association, Keim rounded up his peers to pitch in at the two-day event.

Project Homeless Connect is designed to put homeless people in contact with services they don’t normally receive, including dental and medical care, he said.

It’s been staged for three years in Kalispell, but this was the first year the event included dental services, Keim said. Dentists saw 150 patients at Project Homeless Connect.

Besides local dentists volunteering their time to screen patients and then treat those patients at their offices later, students in the dental hygiene program in Great Falls came to Kalispell and pitched in for the two days.

Keim is proud that his peers, including general dentists, periodontists, oral surgeons and orthodontists, volunteered for Project Homeless Connect.

Next year’s event is already being planned, and Keim wants to expand the dental portion. This year, screenings were conducted at the Samaritan House. Keim would like to move the screening site to the Community Health Clinic, which has dental offices. He also wants to have several private dental offices set up as “command centers” of sorts for the two days. A shuttle service would take patients to those offices. Dentists would treat people that same day under his plan.

Most of the patients treated in connection with Project Homeless Connect are in need of pain relief or extractions. The effort isn’t designed to provide other types of dental care, he said.

It would be relatively easy for dentists to work out of some centralized offices for those two days, he said, and he’s confident that area dentists are willing to work in such a cooperative venture.

Keim is also on the Community Health Clinic board.

“That’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve been involved in,” he said. He’s especially pleased to have worked with clinic director Wendy Doely to incorporate more dental services into the clinic.

He’s taken on the task of making sure other dentists in the valley better understand and appreciate the clinic’s mission.

“It’s a great resource for the valley,” Keim said of the community clinic.

Keim also volunteers with the Give Kids a Smile program and the Donated Dental Services program, coordinated by the Montana Dental Association.

The DDS program provides dental care to people “who are really down and out” and not eligible for other assistance programs, Keim said.

Give Kids a Smile is an annual, one-day American Dental Association program for children without dental insurance. In Kalispell, it’s held at Glacier High School in February.

Keim was quick to spread credit for such volunteer efforts around the dental community.

“I’m not the only dentist who does this,” he said. “Dentists donate time and services every day in their practices. We have a solid group of dentists in this valley.” Many of those dentists share information, expertise and their experiences with one another regularly, a trait that Keim considers vital in the industry.

Flathead residents are also fortunate that local dentists have established an on-call system with the two hospitals in the county, Keim said. About 30 local dentists participate in a rotating on-call schedule for emergency room calls.

Keim and his wife, Ronna, love the outdoors and the recreational opportunities afforded in the Flathead Valley. Their three sons, ages 7, 5 and 23 months, are following in their outdoor footsteps and getting hooked on Glacier Park already.

 Keim earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1994 and his doctorate of dental surgery from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2002.

Reporter Shelley Ridenour may be reached at 758-4439 or sridenour@dailyinterlake.com.

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