Growing up in a small town in western North Dakota, Dr. Matt Charging found working as a dentist in a rural area to be a natural fit. Since graduating from dental school at the University of Minnesota in 2015, Dr. Charging has been serving as an Indian Health Service (IHS) dentist at the Menominee Tribal Clinic in Keshena, Wisconsin.
Dr. Charging comes from a Native American background and is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. His parents grew up on the reservation and many of his relatives still live there. “I don’t know that I ever had a eureka moment pushing me towards IHS or tribal dentistry,” said Dr. Charging, “but poor access to care in native communities was an issue known to me even before pursuing a dental career and was an important factor in the pursuit of my current career.”
Dr. Charging feels there is sometimes a misconception that the practice of dentistry within the IHS or tribal health systems is restricted to basic care services, which he admitted was also his initial perception. However, that is not the case. “Many tribes are aware of and take seriously the deficits in oral care their people face, and because of that there are many modern facilities within these systems that provide dental care without compromise and have a huge impact on the health and wellness of the community,” he said.
Working at the Menominee Tribal Clinic has been a great opportunity for growth and development as a dental professional, Dr. Charging shared. “The dental clinic is a multi-dentist clinic that includes specialists, so it’s been a huge benefit to work alongside other professionals and learn from their expertise.” The modern clinic is part of a larger health facility, with digital charts and radiography, CBCT imaging, 3D printers and a full-scale dental lab. They provide a broad range of dental services including crown and bridge and implants.
Dr. Charging enjoys the intimate nature of getting to know and feel like part of the community. “Patients are generally very grateful for the care they receive as the availability of dental services is usually more limited.” He has also found that practicing in a rural area is more laid back, which enables a great work/life balance for himself and his family. Dr. Charging and his wife, who is also a dentist, have two kids.
Dr. Charging is an avid fisherman who especially enjoys ice season. He recently has been able to share that passion with his 4-year-old son, who caught his first fish this year! He is also a technology enthusiast. He’s a self-taught computer programmer and enjoys tinkering with computers and working on software projects including video games and animations in his free time. He’s also contributed to the development of several open-source software projects.
If you’re a dentist interested in serving underserved populations, Dr. Charging said to just dive in and get involved – there’s no experience like the real deal. Opportunities within the IHS or tribal systems can be as varied and accommodating to different practice styles as elsewhere in the dental field, and can result in a very fulfilling and rewarding career. “Poor access to dental care remains a pressing issue for many people,” he said, “and there is a great need for compassionate providers to help fill that gap.”