With the dentist shortage nearing crisis proportions in Maine, 2 of the state’s primary care residencies have begun to train physicians how to do simple dental procedures like lancing abscesses and pulling teeth.
The Pine Tree state has 4 times more physicians than dentists and that means there’s only one dentist for every 2,300 people.
The national average is a dentist per 1,600 people.
“Doctors typically say, ‘say aah,’ take a look at the back of the throat and are done,” William Alto told the New York Times. Alto is a physician at the Maine Dartmouth Family Practice Residency in Fairfield, home to one of Maine’s dental clinics for medical residents.
Maine is a largely rural state and dental school grads are even less prone to opt for such practice settings than their med school brethren. It doesn’t help that the state has no dental schools; the closest ones are in Boston, an hours’ drive with a tailwind from the state’s southernmost point.
Since Maine’s dental training programs began in 2005, 2/3 of residents graduating from these particular programs have set up shop in rural or remote areas.
“I see dental complaints all the time,” Andrew Fletcher confirmed for the Times. Fletcher learned some dentistry during his medical residency and now works up near the Canadian border.
“It’s mostly Medicaid patients who don’t have money to see dentists,” he added.
The Maine Dental Association supports the program but would rather recruit real dentists to the state. Said executive director Frances Miliano, “medical residents are only going to be doing this in dire circumstances. It’s not a total solution by any means.”