Denturist, Guest Speaker Ron Olson

DENTURISM IN MONTANA as I experienced it’s beginnings; by Ron Olson—————————————————- It was early in 1984 that I received a letter pertaining to an initiative being placed on the ballot in Montana called “Freedom of Choice in Denture Care.” We were living in Lewistown and we had a dental laboratory which was experiencing some “down trends” due to my recently raised prices which I was “forced” to lower. I attended the next scheduled meeting of these men and threw my hat in with them in March. I did not do a lot of traveling to acquire signatures for the initiative because we mainly used seniors at senior citizen centers in the smaller and more remote counties, and a lot of this was lined up and being done when I joined the men. The men involved were: Brent Kandarian-Kalispell, Lee Wiser-Livingston, Dave Comer-Great Falls, John Mateskon-Bozeman, Frank Stone-Butte, Frank Brisendine-Kalispell, Everett Vanden Eaton-Billings, Ron Olson-Lewistown, Rob Carnahan-Missoula, Cliff Christenott-Libby, Gary Vollan-Kalispell. In July we went to Pocatello, Idaho at the Idaho State College and took very concentrated & comprehensive classes by Dr. Ron Gerghety. We took additional weekend classes and some long distances courses as well. The bill was written primarily by Lee Wiser & Brent Kandarian and they also did the work in Helena at the capitol with legal affairs. Our attorney was Jim Bartlett from Kalispell. By August the Montana dentists got very vocal & nasty! The ADA gave the MDA an undesignated check for up to $l million and said, “Defeat this denturist bill in Montana.” Their strategy was to bring confusion in the minds of the public as well as a fear that denturism would ruin people’s health. Their advertising and articles were filled with lies. The dentists in Lewistown also put together their own strategy and came to me with a proposal if I would not become a denturist, but all of my respect for them was wasted and I could see right through them. For us, money was very slim and the future very uncertain. We prayed and trusted God for the outcome and to provide for our family of 4 teenagers. The night of the election will be forever in our minds as we called polling stations and called in numbers to our “headquarters.” When the TV stations signed off the air, they each said, “The denturist initiative is defeated.” In the morning, the papers said it passed by 51%, but as the absentee ballots were counted, the margin was higher. This was a very real miracle! In December we again went to Pocatello and took our license exam both written & practical. If we thought the stress of the initiative was difficult, we were in for only more struggles! We opened our doors to the public on December 1, but people were not eager to come to us. We lacked experience in every area of the business as well as confidence in our abilities. Insurance companies wouldn’t pay us, and the dentists got ready to attack in every way that they could and sent in patients to “frame us.” Every day was difficult and we needed support from family and wisdom from God. I realized we would not get enough business in Lewistown for me to become competent as a professional denturist, so I opened another small clinic in Billings in July 1985. I worked in Billings M-T-W, and I was open in Lewistown Th-F. I worked this way until July of 1988 and then was in Billings full time. Yes, it was a slow, rough start, but in many ways it was rewarding feeling we were real pioneers and forged some inroads for those who would follow. I served on the state Board of Dentistry being appointed by the governor as the denturist representative, and I served as the president of the Montana Denturist Association as well as president of the National Denturist Association. I also took the exam from the BIA in Oklahoma to have an Indian denturist license along with my son, Grant, who had a practice in Roosevelt County on a reservation. I have also been involved with the former Oregon Denturist College and George Brown College in Toronto. Today as I look back on this very accepted and worthy profession, my feelings are as they have always been. We need to do our very best for every patient. We must have a real desire to help people and find things that make people comfortable. I feel we should use the very best products and techniques available and be looking for ways to improve. Yes, education should excite us, and we should communicate and be united within our state, within our region, nationally and internationally. It does seem to me that too many of the denturists are mavericks and not professional enough. This concerns me greatly. I feel that these last 22 years for me have been a challenge and gratifying, but it really doesn’t matter about me. What I see now is that dentists and oral surgeons acknowledge and accept us as colleagues, and the general public are confident and respectful and complimentary every single day. Yes, the change is drastic, and we have come a long ways in Montana. For this to be a very accepted profession nationwide is imperative! Your friend and brother Denturist, Ron Olson ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ron Olson is a well respected denturist among his peers. He owned West Park Denture Clinic in Billings, Montana but is now semi-retired. His son Grant has taken over the clinical responsibility. Grant and I graduated from the Oregon Denturist College in 1992, and each of us holds our profession in standards as high as those of his father Ron Olson —- Gary W. Vollan


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