Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation (DDCOF) announced four grants totaling nearly $5 million dedicated to expanding and diversifying dental hygiene programs across the state in partnership with Colorado's higher education system. Governor Jared Polis and Colorado Community College Chancellor Joe Garcia joined grant recipients and the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation at an event this afternoon to celebrate these investments.
Grants were awarded to Front Range Community College, Community College of Denver, Colorado Mountain College, and Pikes Peak State College. The grants will be awarded over the course of four years.
"Two years ago, we made a fundamental decision to deepen our commitment to oral health equity by investing with an expectation of long-term outcomes," said Adeeb Khan, executive director of DDCOF. "The investments we're celebrating today will ensure that Colorado has the ability to address oral health care workforce shortages by expanding our capacity to train dental hygienists and also providing more pathways for diverse populations. We are proud to go on this journey with college partners who have elevated oral health equity."
These grants address the ongoing shortage of registered dental hygienists in the state. A recent analysis by the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute shows hygienist employment has declined since September 2020. This shortage in the workforce compounds issues for Coloradans who already struggle to access dental care. According to the ADA, dentist-reported staffing shortages have resulted in an estimated 11% decrease in practice capacity.
"I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting announcement that will support Colorado's dental care workforce to become more inclusive and create new opportunities for Coloradans to access the skills they need to achieve their career goals," said Governor Polis. "Every Coloradan deserves high-quality and accessible dental care, and by investing in growing the workforce, we are helping provide better health outcomes for more people."
Creating pathways to and establishing accredited dental hygiene education programs will ensure more Coloradans are able to prioritize their oral health, ultimately lessening overall health inequities that persist for different communities and demographics in rural and urban areas in the state.
"The Foundation's work goes hand in hand with our priorities at Delta Dental of Colorado to improve the oral health of the communities we serve," added Helen Drexler, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Colorado. "With the creation of these workforce pipelines, more Coloradans will have the ability to access excellent dental care."
With these grants, accredited dental hygiene programs will be established at Front Range Community College, Colorado Mountain College, and Pikes Peak State College, and will increase the number of seats available to students in existing dental hygiene programs at Community College of Denver.
Learn more about Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation's grantmaking here.
About Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation
Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation believes every person can have a healthy mouth regardless of life circumstances. By partnering with communities, the foundation works to re-imagine how all of our neighbors access, benefit from, and value the importance of oral health care. As a 501(c)(3) organization funded by the nonprofit Delta Dental of Colorado, the foundation intends to advance oral health equity throughout local communities across Colorado by implementing transformative programs and initiatives. To learn more about Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, visit www.deltadentalcofoundation.org.
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