Dr. Helgeson is one of the founders of Apple Tree Dental, an innovative nonprofit organization that operates eight Centers for Dental Health and delivers on-site care in collaboration with more than 145 urban and rural organizations including Head Start Centers, schools, group homes, hospitals, medical clinics and nursing facilities. Apple Tree’s newest center opened in 2020 and is located in the Mayo Clinic and hospital in Fairmont, Minnesota. He serves as Apple Tree’s Chief Executive Officer, managing a professional staff of more than 200, which delivered more than $31 million worth of dental care during 2019. Apple Tree’s community collaborative practice model has been replicated in North Carolina, Louisiana and California and has received recognition from the Surgeon General, the American Dental Association, Oral Health America and the Robert Wood Johnson and Kellogg Foundations.
Dr. Helgeson attended St. Olaf College, majoring in physics, and completed BS and DDS degrees at the University of Minnesota. Following dental school, he completed a two-year postgraduate program in geriatric dentistry. As a National Health Services Corps scholarship recipient, Dr. Helgeson served as a United States Public Health Service dentist in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1986 to 1990. He received a 15-year exceptional service award in 2002 from the U.S. Public Health Service. Returning to Minnesota in 1991, Dr. Helgeson completed a mini-MBA program in nonprofit management. Dr. Helgeson was a Minnesota Area Geriatric Education Center Fellow from 1992 to 1993. Dr. Helgeson has held appointments as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, teaching oral diagnosis and radiology, supervising dental and hygiene students and residents and lecturing on geriatrics and community dentistry.
Dr. Helgeson is a member of the American Dental Association’s National Eldercare Advisory Committee and has served as presidents of both the American Society for Geriatric Dentistry and the Special Care Dentistry Association. In 2011, Dr. Helgeson was selected to receive the Saul Kamen Award, the highest honor awarded by the Special Care Dentistry Association. He has served as an expert consultant to the National Quality Forum, Institute of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and U.S. Administration for Community Living (formerly the Administration on Aging). In 2017, he was included in a list of the 32 most influential people in dentistry published by Incisal Edge, and in 2019, the American Association for Community Dental Programs selected Dr. Helgeson for the John P. Rossetti Community Oral Health Impact Award in recognition of his leadership at the local, state and national levels.