OAKLAND – Shannon Grip and her children have been visiting the Waterville Community Dental Center for years. So they naturally went to the Center's long-time center in Waterville for weddings on Wednesday to realize they were in the wrong place.

After more than 18 years in the center, the non-profit dental center moved into a new space in Oakland's First Park at the end of December to allow the project to transform the center into a downtown arts hub. city.

"It's beautiful," Albion's Grip said, as his two children had their teeth cleaned on Wednesday morning. "It's a total upgrade. It really is. It's just brighter. There is more space. Nobody bumps on it. "

The move represents a $ 1.2 million investment in the Dental Center, which specializes in providing affordable dental care to low-income, uninsured and underinsured patients.

During the last year, the center was able to raise almost all the necessary funds. They recently received a grant of $ 500,000 from the Harold Alfond Foundation and have more than $ 35,000 to reach.

"It's miraculous," said Barbara Covey, chair of the Waterville Community Dental Center's board of directors. "At the same time, I knew from the beginning that if people really understood the importance of this, we could get support from the community. It's really rewarding to know that this has happened. "

For Covey, it's essential to keep the center alive in a new space, as dental care is the foundation of overall health and is often difficult for low-income and uninsured patients to access. taking care.

Dental hygienist Paige Blake-Ireland is washing Theresa Mansfield's teeth while her brother, Landen Grip, is waiting for her turn at the new Waterville Community Dental Center located at First Park in Oakland on Wednesday. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

Maine is one of 13 states that does not provide dental care except emergency workfor adults via Medicaid, although children can benefit from preventive care via MaineCare.

The new space at 2 Evergreen Drive moves the center of a former photography studio to The Center, which was partly a former photography center, in a renovated physiotherapy office that employees said was better suited to the needs of their patients.

"It's great," said Hope Ricker, a dental hygienist who has been working for the center for more than 17 years. "It makes it easy for me just to have that space. It is also an advantage for patients. People always talk about parking and it's a lot easier to get here. And it's so brilliant. It's so good. "

The dental center was informed last February that it should leave the space rented by the artistic organization Waterville Creates! Make room for the artistic hub of downtown planned in collaboration with Colby College.

Getting out of the Center, finding a new space and raising the funds for renovations and relocations was a monumental task, Covey said.

In July, the center announced plans to raise $ 1.2 million for the project and they also used a loan from the US Department of Agriculture to raise funds while continuing to raise funds.

"Every penny spent – small contributions from citizens to larger institutions that have understood the value of this project – has always been crucial," said Covey.

The new space includes nine operating rooms, small rooms with individual dental chairs, versus seven in the old, and the center has also added an oral surgery room to allow more on-site surgeries rather than referrals.

That means they'll be able to see more patients and add staff, Covey said.

With this move, the center will also become a community education site for the College of Dentistry at the University of New England.

This partnership would allow the center to host a dental student every semester and hope, Covey says, to encourage more dentists to live and work in the area on an ongoing basis.

Currently, the center employs a full-time dentist, two part-time dentists and three dental hygienists. They see about 4,000 patients each year, about 75% of whom are under MaineCare and about 75% are children.

"They have been really good for my kids," said Grip. "These are just honest people. We like the staff. "

Rachel Ohm – 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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