Spruce Pine, NC
County: Mitchell County
County population: 15,445
Number of dentists: 5
Median household income: $32,743
• Spruce Pine is called the Mineral City
• Spruce Pine is located between Mt. Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain.
View images from the community.
Spruce Pine is located near the base of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Known as the “Mineral City of the World,” gems, minerals, and mining are a major part of Spruce Pine’s economy and culture. In fact, each summer, Spruce Pine hosts the North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival.
Soon, the Mineral City will become the site of one of East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine's (SoDM) community service-learning centers. With the establishment of this new center, the School of Dental Medicine is working on improving the dental health of Mitchell, Avery, and Yancey counties.
ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard praised the support of the local legislative delegation, community leaders and Blue Ridge Community Hospital, which will partner with the school to establish the center. "They have made all the difference as we've tried to move forward," Ballard said. "We're all tickled (a center) will be in Mitchell County."
The 7,700-square-foot center will be a fully functioning general dentistry office with 16 treatment rooms, X-ray equipment, educational space and more. Full-time dental school faculty members will staff the center, along with dental hygienists and other staff members, and fourth-year dental students and residents will train at the center. Dr. Gregory Chadwick, interim dean of the School of Dental Medicine, has described the centers as similar to "moving the fourth floor of the dental school -- the clinical training -- off campus to rural areas of our state where dental services are needed."
Spruce Pine dentist Jim Thompson said the center will help recruit dentists to the rural mountain town as well as other rural communities. Typically, he said, dental graduates look to practice in larger towns. Spruce Pine has three dentists, only one younger than 60.
"I think it's going to be great for the area and all rural areas," he said. "It's going to make a lot of difference."