Oral health is essential to overall wellness and everyone deserves a healthy smile. This is something our organization truly believes in, and the foundation of our goal to increase access to dental services. As part of our mission we are dedicated to providing financial support to programs that increase access to dental care, either through direct corporate giving or through grants awarded by the Northeast Delta Dental Foundation.
One public health concern that we share with many other nonprofits is the insufficient access to dental services in certain geographic areas. This is particularly true in Maine and Vermont, often in rural regions with low population densities. We are confronting this problem by consistently focusing funding on solutions that increase the availability of dentists —over a period of several years— to dental educational loan repayment programs in both states. Typically, by the time dentists have earned their DDS or DMD degrees, they carry heavy debt loads and this can hinder their ability to practice in areas of high need. We want to address this issue at its root, student loan repayment.
Though these programs differ, both are designed to increase access to dental care in underserved communities by helping dentists repay their educational loans. Dentists who are selected to receive such financial aid must sign agreements that include the prescribed period for which they must work, what forms of payment they must be willing to accept from patients, and the terms and limitations of reapplication for financial help in future years. Through our investments, funds have been awarded to proficient new dentists eager to treat otherwise overlooked patients in regions with the greatest need for dental services.
- Delta Dental Plan of Vermont gives funds for community match grants to the Vermont Educational Loan Program for Dentists administered by the University of Vermont Larner College of Medical Area Health Education Centers (AHEC). Each year up to three dentists receive a matching grant from us. Learn more here.
- Delta Dental Plan of Maine gives funds to the Maine Dental Loan Repayment Program administered by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). Currently, each year funds are awarded to one dentist as a grant. Learn more here.
For New Hampshire, as part of its efforts to expand access to dentists in the regions of greatest need, the State Loan Repayment Program is piloting a new loan repayment program for private practice dentists. Learn more here.
I encourage you to learn more about these opportunities and to share with members of the dental community that may be impacted by their availability.