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The Alaskan Bush Dentist: Dr. Nolan Davis
Courtesy Dr. Nolan Davis12/17

The Alaskan Bush Dentist: Dr. Nolan Davis

What I Do: 

Nolan Davis has spent the past 12 years providing dentistry to Alaska Native villages from Prince William Sound to St. Lawrence Island, a rocky outcrop along the International Date Line that’s closer to Siberia than mainland Alaska. The freelance dentist typically travels with a pilot in a decades-old bush plane and carries 500-pounds of portable dental gear with him to serve remote communities for about a week at a time. Of course, all that gear can only get him so far. Davis says that when you don’t have specialists nearby, “you become really good at pulling teeth.”

Experience Required:

You’ll need a dental degree, a sense of adventure, the willingness to be stuck for several days due to extreme weather, and the ability to perform any oral surgery necessary without hesitation. If you’re Davis, you go the extra mile and get your pilot’s license to cover your bases in an emergency situation. “Dentistry is hardly hardcore,” Davis says, “but I suppose the dentistry I do is on one end of the spectrum because I don’t have the luxury of referring difficult extractions.” 

The Most Dangerous Appointment:

Davis arrived in St. Lawrence one day when the ocean was frozen over, so he went out exploring. “When I walked back into the village, an elder told me that I was almost attacked by a polar bear,” he says. “The next day, an Eskimo — with a rifle — and I found huge polar bear tracks on top of mine. I never knew I was being stalked.” But the biggest danger for Davis isn’t the polar bears; it’s battling Alaskan weather in a 1960s-era single-engine plane. “After one plane I was supposed to get on went down, the pilot quit the company and told me two more planes had quit running mid-air in the last two month,” Davis says. “One made it back to the runway and one did not. I immediately found another bush company for transportation." -Mark Johanson

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