Creighton father, son serve dental needs in rural Montana
Though he was born in Omaha when his father was a Creighton dental student, Montana is home to fourth-year student Kyle Bagnell.
“Once you move to the mountains, it’s hard to look back,” he says.
Kyle, the son of Creighton dental school alumnus Tim Bagnell, DDS’91, plans to return to Montana after he completes his studies in May 2022. There, he will join his father, who runs three dental practices in the rural western part of the state — one in Frenchtown, one in Thompson Falls and one in Bigfork — each of which is separated from the others by almost two hours of driving.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for me there,” Kyle says. “Obviously, you learn as much as you can in dental school, but you’re always wanting to improve and make sure you’re competent in the things that you do. My dad has multiple dentists working under him. He’s doing a lot of implants, a lot of extractions. And I think there’s a lot I can learn from him and his associates.”
The family’s move to Montana, which happened when Kyle was around 9, was a return home for Tim, who is originally from Frenchtown. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Tim was accepted into Creighton’s dental program. But first, as the family story goes, he had a special request for the dean:
Could he delay his entry into the program for a year to give him time to tour the rodeo circuit around the Midwest?
After graduating from Creighton, Tim ran two dental practices in the Omaha area. Though he’s been gone for several years, Kyle says he hears from his father’s old colleagues that patients still ask around for “that cowboy dentist.”
Kyle chose to follow in his father’s footsteps after attending Oklahoma State University, where he played baseball. He later earned a master’s degree in biomedical sciences from Bemidji State University in Minnesota.
The Creighton approach to dental education has prepared both father and son to serve the dental needs of rural Montana, Kyle says. In a sparsely populated place, there are fewer specialists available to handle more complex procedures, such as wisdom teeth extraction or molar endodontics, both of which Tim performs in his practice.
“A lot of the guys that come in are farmers or ranchers who don’t want to give you a lot of their time anyway,” Kyle says. “So, if you try to refer them to a specialist hours away in Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) or Missoula, they’ll say, ‘Why are you telling me this? That’s why I’m coming to you.’”
His time at Creighton, Kyle says, has taught him that “whoever walks through the door, you’ve got to buckle up and get after it.”
“It’s really nice with all the clinical experience you get at Creighton, all the molar ‘endo’ you get to do, all the extractions you get to do,” he says. “I think that’s what Creighton prides itself on, and it’s a huge benefit and was a huge draw for me.”