As Maine expands dental care access, UNE will train more dentists

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Nicole Kimmes is the interim dean of the University of New England College of Dental Medicine. 

Last week, Maine joined 19 other states when it expanded Medicaid coverage to dental care, making nearly a quarter million more Mainers eligible for preventive and routine oral health services. But even as access to care is being expanded, Maine continues to face a shortage of licensed dentists, meaning that actually being seen by a dentist will still be difficult for many Mainers. Responding to this challenge continues to be the animating force behind the work of the University of New England College of Dental Medicine, which will begin admitting more students next year.  

UNE’s College of Dental Medicine was launched to address the aging dental workforce and the urgent need to build a pipeline of well-trained dentists to serve Maine and northern New England. In 2010, Maine voters approved a $5 million bond package to help expand dental clinics in Maine, with $3.5 million going to UNE to establish a dental school. At the time, labor projections indicated that more dentists would be retiring than new graduates would be entering the workforce by 2014. Today, despite small gains, Maine still faces a dramatic need to build its dentist pipeline. According to the Bureau of Health Workforce Health Resources and Services Administration at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Maine currently has 93 dental health professional shortage areas with a total population of 373,553 people. In order to meet the need for dental care in these geographic areas, we need 58 additional practitioners available and able to see patients.

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