The Veterans Affairs dental clinic in Billings has been shut since Jan. 20, and officials there don't know yet when it will reopen. 

Since January, patients in need of general dental care have been referred to VA clinics in Fort Harrison; Sheridan, Wyoming; and Spokane, Washington.

Patients in need of more serious dental care, like root canals, infections or abscesses, "that care is being purchased for eligible veterans in the community through non-VA care," said Mike Garcia, public affairs officer for the Montana VA Health Care System.

Officials have declined to comment on the reason for the dental clinic's closure. 

"In accordance with VA policy, we do not discuss any personnel action related to one of our employees," Garcia said in an email. 

The VA employs a dentist who works in the clinic and he hasn't seen patients since Jan. 20. Garcia said he didn't know when patient care at the dental clinic would start up again. 

"There is no specific date set as to when dental services will resume at the Billings VA clinic," he said by email. But, he added, "Montana VA’s senior leaders are working diligently to ensure they do so as soon as possible."

A few local dentists have said they've heard grumblings about veterans being asked to travel out of town for routine dental care. 

Garcia said the VA has worked to minimize those travel distances as best it can. Patients on the western side of the state are being referred to Spokane, Washington. Those living in central Montana are directed to Fort Harrison. Veterans living on the eastern side of the state are referred to Sheridan, Wyoming.

"I can assure you that eligible Veterans requiring dental services in the Billings area will continue to receive that care through another VA facility or through a community provider," he said.