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Northeast Delta Dental contributes $15,000 more to USM-coordinated SmilePartners

unlicensed image of dental exam

University of Southern Maine and SmilePartners' efforts to ease barriers for people with limited means to access high quality comprehensive dental health care have resulted in $15,000 in additional funding from Northeast Delta Dental.

The money will aid collaborative efforts to help people establish preventive dental care who are frightened away by introductory appointments, which even on sliding fee scales start at about $130, including an exam, cleaning and x-rays.

The new funding by Northeast Delta Dental raises their total support for the initiative to $47,000.

SmilePartners, a collaborative initiative coordinated by USM, provides oral health literacy education to participants with on-the-ground implementation led by community health workers. Participants receive dental care services on a sliding fee scale. The successes of the pilot program include an 80% completion rate and 97% appointment adherence, with 80% of participants planning to continue preventive appointments.

"Northeast Delta Dental is proud to support SmilePartners as we understand the important connection between oral and overall health. We are happy to be able to help some of Maine's most vulnerable residents access necessary preventive and comprehensive dental care," said Kathleen B. Walker, treasurer of the Northeast Delta Dental Foundation and director of Marketing and Communications at Northeast Delta Dental.

The SmilePartners initiative reflects joint leadership by multiple community organizations, including Maine Access Immigrant Network, Community Financial Literacy, Community Dental, City of Portland Public Health Division's Minority Health Program, MaineHealth/CarePartners, University of New England College of Dental Medicine, and cPort Credit Union. The collaboration has also begun to draw in new community partners while it works to identify new populations who may be interested in the model.

SmilePartners began in 2013 as a work group of the Greater Portland Refugee and Immigrant Health Collaborative. Preventive dental care was identified as a high-priority issue among New Mainers, and a pilot program was funded by the DentaQuest Foundation, Northeast Delta Dental Foundation, and Maine Health Access Foundation. SmilePartners matches funds saved by program participants while helping them navigate the dental health system. With great results from the initial pilot, the original investors have now been joined by the Cumberland District Public Health Council, which supported the SmilePartners initiative as part of its Oral Health priority with funds from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The publication MaineBiz also covered the story.