National Partnership for Dental Therapy: The East Coast’s First Dental Therapist Chooses Maine

For Immediate Release
Contact: Anna Farrar, anna@convergegps.com, 954.647.7059

BOSTON, MA -- Today, the National Partnership for Dental Therapy announced that the first ever dental therapist on the East Coast will begin working in Bangor, Maine at Penobscot Community Health Care. Claire Roesler will begin work six years after a law passed in Maine to allow dental therapists – a highly trained and licensed oral health care professional who provides preventive and routine care and works as a part of the dental care team – to practice.

Claire Roesler, a licensed dental therapist, said, “I’m thrilled to start giving critical dental care to this community. I firmly believe that where you live and your financial situation should never determine if you can access dental care. I look forward to working with leaders in the community to get care to those who need it most.”

Tera Bianchi, Dental Access Program Director at Community Catalyst and Co-Chair of the National Partnership for Dental Therapy, said, “This is a monumental step forward for improving dental care in the United States as nearly 60 million Americans live in areas without enough dental professionals to meet their needs. Dental therapists are a proven, cost effective way to address the lack of dental care access that has only worsened during the global pandemic. Oral health care is a basic need and regular access not only identifies, but also addresses bigger health issues.”

Kristen Mizzi Angelone, senior manager, The Pew Charitable Trusts, said, “Millions of Americans have difficulty getting the dental care they need to live healthy, productive lives. Pew applauds Penobscot Community Health Care for expanding its team with New England’s first dental therapist, who will help make dental care more accessible to the people who need it. We look forward to the continued expanded use of dental therapists across the country.”

Dr. Cheyanne Warren, program director, dental therapy, Vermont Technical College said, “We are thrilled that the Northeast now has a dental therapist living and working to provide dental care, and there is still more work to be done to ensure that dental care is accessible for all Americans. As the region’s first dental therapy education program we look forward to training more dental therapists to join Claire’s ranks here in New England.”

Nearly 40 percent of kindergartners in Maine have experienced tooth decay, nearly a quarter of kindergartners have untreated decay, and 15 of the state’s 16 counties have a shortage of dentists. As of 2016, only 15% of Maine dentists participated in Maine’s Medicaid program and less than 40% of kids on Medicaid saw a dentist in 2018 – the third-lowest percentage in the nation.

Roesler will work at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor, Maine, a clinic focused on increasing access to critical health care to those who need it most. A law allowing the profession to practice in the state was passed in 2014 and amended in 2019, but license and certification processes were not approved until June 2020. Dental therapists have been working in the U.S. for over 15 years and currently work in some Western and Midwestern states. The Northeast region currently has three states (Vermont, Maine and Connecticut) with laws on the books that allow for dental therapists to work, but Roesler will be the first to practice. A dental therapy education program at Vermont Tech expects to open its doors to students in 2022 and plans to include distance learning options to allow the school to serve not just Vermont, but Maine as well.

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About The National Partnership for Dental Therapy:

Co-chaired by Community Catalyst, the National Indian Health Board and the National Coalition of Dentists for Health Equity, the goal of the National Partnership for Dental Therapy is to elevate the visibility and broad, multi-sectoral support for dental therapy as an evidence-based way to improve access to oral health. We believe all communities could benefit from dental therapists, but the focus of the Partnership is improving access to much needed dental care to communities where the needs are the greatest.

MEDIA CONTACT

Kathy Melley
kmelley[at]communitycatalyst.org
617-275-2861