College of Dental Medicine increasing enrollment to meet demand for care
As Maine announced it has expanded Medicaid to include a broader range of dental services, the University of New England’s College of Dental Medicine is preparing to graduate more dentists to meet the growing demand for dental care around the state.
UNE’s College of Dental Medicine (CDM) — the state’s only dental school and the only such school in northern New England — is increasing its enrollment by eight students starting in the fall of 2023. The college currently enrolls 64 students per year, and the expansion will bring that total to 72 starting next year.
Of the eight new slots, six students will enroll in the college’s traditional four-year program, and two students will enroll in the college’s Advanced Standing Track (A.S.T.) program, which prepares foreign-trained dentists to seek licensing in the U.S. in a little more than two years.
Renovations to the Oral Health Center, home of UNE's College of Dental Medicine, are already underway to accommodate larger class sizes.
The school has graduated 377 dentists since its founding in 2013, and a quarter of all graduates are licensed to practice in Maine. As of 2021, about 40% of dental medicine graduates who are practicing in Maine practice in underserved areas.
CDM Interim Dean Nicole Kimmes, D.D.S., said expansion of the college will fill critical gaps in dental care across Maine. There were 752 dentists in Maine in 2021, according to the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute, to serve a population of nearly 1.4 million people. That is an average of 54.8 dentists per 100,000 people in Maine, compared to the national average of 60.8 dentists per the same figure.
“In short, this means that too many Mainers are not able to easily and regularly access dental care, leading to skipped visits, ignored issues, and larger long-term consequences when routine matters become emergency needs,” Kimmes said. “At UNE, we take seriously the role and responsibility our students have in creating an oral health safety net for Maine residents, particularly for those who are underserved.”
Expansion of the dental school comes at a transformative time for UNE’s Portland Campus, as the University expects to break ground on the Harold and Bibby Alfond Center for Health Sciences, the new home of the College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNE COM), on the campus this fall.
The new UNE COM facility, relocated from its current location on the Biddeford Campus, will allow for a 21% increase in the number of students admitted to UNE COM, and it will bring all the University’s health professions programs onto a single, interprofessional campus — an unprecedented model for a single campus in New England.