Earlier this year, the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) received a $665,000 award from Northeast Delta Dental to expand the dental workforce in Maine. The award was celebrated October 18, at a ceremonial event at the UMA Lewiston Center Dental Clinic located at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College.
The initiative’s goal is to address the shortage of dental auxiliaries in Maine and extend the benefits of dental care to address disparities in oral health, providing quality oral health care for people who are low-income, uninsured, and/or members of racial/ethnic minority, immigrant, or rural populations.
Dr. Jeff Walawender, Chair of the Maine Board of Directors of Northeast Delta Dental, and a practicing dentist in Portland, Maine with nearly 15 years of experience in dental medicine spoke to attendees. “This is an historic gift from Northeast Delta Dental, and it demonstrates our commitment to community oral health. Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists are a critical component of this effort dental health and we are very proud to award this gift to the University.”
In addition to doubling the number of state-of-the-art dental units (from three to six) to UMA’s Lewiston Center Dental Clinic with equipment and construction costs, and adding increased staffing, the gift will enable increased access to care for preventative dental services in the Lewiston and surrounding areas. With these funds, the programs also plan to award $100,000 in student scholarships to those enrolling in the Dental Assisting (DA) or Expanded Function Dental Assisting (EFDA) programs which will increase the number of trained dental professionals entering the workforce. Although not a focus of this gift, UMA also anticipates that more dental hygiene students from its Bangor location would be able to go on rotations in Lewiston, adding valuable educational experiences for hygiene students and increasing access to care for preventative dental services in the Lewiston and surrounding areas.
Nancy Foster, Associate Professor of Dental Health and Dental Health Programs Coordinator for UMA, said, “Receiving this award to expand our Lewiston dental clinic will make a monumental impact on the role the University is able to play by positively impacting and contributing to the dental workforce shortages and ultimately aiding in Maine’s lack of access to dental care for its residents.”
With three additional dental chairs, UMA will increase enrollment in both the Dental Assisting and Expanded Function Dental Assisting programs. The Dental Assisting Program anticipates an increase in Lewiston enrollments from six students to 12 students per year. The Expanded Function Dental Assisting Program is projected to increase Lewiston enrollments from 12 to 18 students per year. With these additional dental units and equipment, the Dental Assisting Program in both Bangor and Lewiston would anticipate 24 dental assistants and 30 EFDAs per academic year. Educating and training 54 additional allied dental professionals for the workforce here in Maine per year will make a significant impact on the overall workforce shortages.
Northeast Delta Dental administers dental benefits in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, offering dental insurance programs for businesses and nonprofits of all sizes, and individuals and families with no access to employer-sponsored dental benefits. Northeast Delta Dental follows its mission to advance the oral health and overall wellness of its customers and the communities it serves by funding oral health initiatives and numerous community organizations throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Visit nedelta.com for more information.
UMA transforms the lives of students of every age and background across the State of Maine and beyond through access to high-quality distance and on-site education, excellence in student support, civic engagement, and professional and liberal arts programs. For more information, please visit uma.edu.
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