Maine dental school steps up for those who can’t afford care

Delly Bezoss

The University of New England in Portland’s dental school is stepping up to help community members who can’t afford dental care.Dental students took care of 81-year-old retired veteran Smitty Smith when WMTW stopped by.”Convenient and affordable. I’m a cheap S.O.B. The cost is awesome,” Smith said.Smith got a ride to Portland from Bowdoinham for his treatment, which will cost him far less than if he went to a regular dentist’s office. “I came here to see what it would be like here. (The procedure) was significantly, significantly less,” Smith said.Jonathan Lee from Madawaska is a fourth-year dental student at UNE. He’ll graduate in two months.He says the experience working on patients like Smith is invaluable. Aside from the hands-on experience, he’s getting a real-life look at how dentistry can be rewarding. He says he lights up when his patients “see themselves in the mirror for the first time with a new smile. Then to have the patient not only break down in your chair but then to hear that extends to their family and have their family so emotionally invested is really why I think a lot of us have chosen this profession,” Lee said.Across campus in another building, future dental hygienists are working on their finals. Mallory Feenstra is 22. She is a senior from Berwick and about ready to graduate. Recently, students took part in a pop-up clinic at the Westbrook Housing Authority to perform cleanings on those in the community that can’t afford to go to the dentist.”I didn’t even know that some of these patients like didn’t even know what a cleaning was. Have never had a cleaning. So being able to do prevention and education, nutritional counseling is so rewarding,” Feenstra said.They offer reduced and low prices for cleanings and fluoride treatments in their 20-chair clinic on campus. A cleaning might be $35.”The message is that UNE dental hygiene is here for the community, and we have appointments available for people of all ages from babies to elders,” program director Marji Harmer-Beem said.Community concepts, a Lewiston-based community action agency, recently conducted a needs assessment. They sent out a survey and it found those earning less than $50,000 said making dental care more affordable is their top concern.CEO Shawn Yardley says people in Franklin and Oxford counties in particular struggle with everything from housing to health care to dental access.”We help them deal with that and if they get one problem solved, they can move on to the next problem and over time we help them reduce those barriers, so they spend time, less time surviving and more time living,” Yardley said.The agency can help with transportation and other logistics for those who don’t know where to turn.At the dental school, students continue to work on patients who have booked appointments. Many of those people return frequently. These students are happy to help.”Dentistry does not have to be inaccessible to those who don’t have insurance, or those who are underserved or those who are retired. We are here for you,” Anthony Iringan said.”They’re here to help. I feel like hopefully I’m helping them. They’re learning things,” Smith said after his dental work was finished.For more information about UNE’s oral health center, click here.

The University of New England in Portland’s dental school is stepping up to help community members who can’t afford dental care.

Dental students took care of 81-year-old retired veteran Smitty Smith when WMTW stopped by.

“Convenient and affordable. I’m a cheap S.O.B. The cost is awesome,” Smith said.

Smith got a ride to Portland from Bowdoinham for his treatment, which will cost him far less than if he went to a regular dentist’s office.

“I came here to see what it would be like here. (The procedure) was significantly, significantly less,” Smith said.

Jonathan Lee from Madawaska is a fourth-year dental student at UNE. He’ll graduate in two months.

He says the experience working on patients like Smith is invaluable. Aside from the hands-on experience, he’s getting a real-life look at how dentistry can be rewarding.

He says he lights up when his patients “see themselves in the mirror for the first time with a new smile. Then to have the patient not only break down in your chair but then to hear that extends to their family and have their family so emotionally invested is really why I think a lot of us have chosen this profession,” Lee said.

Across campus in another building, future dental hygienists are working on their finals.

Mallory Feenstra is 22. She is a senior from Berwick and about ready to graduate.

Recently, students took part in a pop-up clinic at the Westbrook Housing Authority to perform cleanings on those in the community that can’t afford to go to the dentist.

“I didn’t even know that some of these patients like didn’t even know what a cleaning was. Have never had a cleaning. So being able to do prevention and education, nutritional counseling is so rewarding,” Feenstra said.

They offer reduced and low prices for cleanings and fluoride treatments in their 20-chair clinic on campus. A cleaning might be $35.

“The message is that UNE dental hygiene is here for the community, and we have appointments available for people of all ages from babies to elders,” program director Marji Harmer-Beem said.

Community concepts, a Lewiston-based community action agency, recently conducted a needs assessment. They sent out a survey and it found those earning less than $50,000 said making dental care more affordable is their top concern.

CEO Shawn Yardley says people in Franklin and Oxford counties in particular struggle with everything from housing to health care to dental access.

“We help them deal with that and if they get one problem solved, they can move on to the next problem and over time we help them reduce those barriers, so they spend time, less time surviving and more time living,” Yardley said.

The agency can help with transportation and other logistics for those who don’t know where to turn.

At the dental school, students continue to work on patients who have booked appointments. Many of those people return frequently. These students are happy to help.

“Dentistry does not have to be inaccessible to those who don’t have insurance, or those who are underserved or those who are retired. We are here for you,” Anthony Iringan said.

“They’re here to help. I feel like hopefully I’m helping them. They’re learning things,” Smith said after his dental work was finished.

For more information about UNE’s oral health center, click here.

https://www.wmtw.com/article/maine-dental-school-steps-up-care/39572836

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