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Missouri Dental Association names 2013 graduate ‘Dentist of the Year’

Dr. Nathan Suter recognized for work in advancing teledentistry

December 27, 2019

By Kimber Solana

Dr. Suter
Dr. Suter: “You don’t need to wait until you are older and more established. The profession needs the voice of young dentists. Getting involved has allowed me to gain mentors and friends.”

Feeling overwhelmed as only one of two dentists at a community health center in two rural communities outside St. Louis, Dr. Nathan Suter said he saw teledentistry as a solution and a way to increase access to care in Missouri.

“Since I was a recent graduate, I could see how a teledentistry dental exam was not very different from the treatment planning courses, competencies and [objective structured clinical examinations] from dental school,” he said. “From there, I jumped head first into research and advocacy.”

For his work in advancing teledentistry in the state of Missouri, through his advocacy with the Missouri Dental Association and the Missouri Coalition for Oral Health, the MDA named Dr. Suter as Dentist of the Year in November.

According to the Missouri Dental Association, Dr. Suter was instrumental in advocating for teledentistry legislation in the state in 2017. That same year, he received a grant through a private foundation to establish Missouri’s first teledentistry pilot program.

Earlier this year, Dr. Suter developed a teledentistry consulting business, Access Teledentistry, to assist dental professionals who are seeking to improve access to dental care via teledentistry. In addition, he’s been awarded a four-year contract with the state of Missouri to teach dentists how to implement and perform teledentistry.

The award, Dr. Suter said, caught him by surprise. He didn’t even know he was nominated.

“It was also an honor since my mentor and the dentist I purchased my practice from had received the same award 25 years earlier for his work with the MDA,” Dr. Suter said.    Teledentistry first caught Dr. Sutter’s attention in 2014 while attending a presentation by Dr. Paul Glassman, professor of dental practice and director of community oral health, from the University of the Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

“He was illustrating the impact and literature of his five-year program in rural and underserved communities,” said Dr. Suter, who at the time felt overwhelmed in providing dental care to residents of Hillsboro and House Springs. “I saw [teledentistry] as this great opportunity to increase access to care in Missouri without the need to expand any scope of practice.”

This year, Dr. Suter also worked with the Missouri Telehealth Network to launch an oral health track for Show-Me ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), which uses videoconferencing technology to connect a team of interdisciplinary experts with dental and primary care providers, according to the MDA in a news release.

“Teledentistry can be used for multiple other situations depending on state regulations,” Dr. Suter said. “I utilize it in my rural private practice to add around 20 hours a month to my schedule. This equals to roughly 20-25% increase in office hours per month. The majority of these hours are for keeping the office open while I am out of the office for travel or vacation.”

A 2013 graduate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and recipient of the 2016 ADA Foundation’s Dr. David A. Whiston Leadership Award, Dr. Suter said he would encourage his new dentist peers to step outside their comfort zone and get involved.

“You don’t need to wait until you are older and more established,” he said. “The profession needs the voice of young dentists. Getting involved has allowed me to gain mentors and friends.”

For more information on the ADA policy on teledentistry, visit ADA.org.