Maine needs state-level dental health program

In their Maine Compass column published on May 20, Rep. Lori Gramlich and Dr. Steve Mills make a compelling case for passing and funding L.D. 1501, An Act to Protect Oral Health for Children in Maine. I won’t repeat their excellent arguments here, other than to endorse all they say about our opportunities to improve oral health in Maine with several important bills, including L.D. 996, to extend MaineCare’s dental coverage to adults. That these bills have received unanimous committee support is noteworthy. They must also be passed and funded.

I want to expand on the provision in L.D. 1501 to restore an oral health coordinator position within the Maine CDC, a key position for a state public health agency. This person will provide the necessary leadership and support to the School Oral Health Program, highlighted by Rep. Gramlich and Dr. Mills.

In addition, the job also means identifying gaps, finding state and federal resources, forging partnerships within and outside of government, working to resolve health inequities, addressing the relationships between chronic diseases and oral health, and collaborating with other partners to develop and expand Maine’s oral health workforce.

Maine needs a state-level, fully-functioning dental public health program with a dedicated program coordinator to serve as a resource for evidence-based preventive public health approaches and best practices in implementing community-level programs, and to assist in developing public health policy.

As the last person to hold that position, I know the potential it offers. I can add that the Maine CDC’s Oral Health Program was increasingly under-resourced even before the program was downsized and effectively eliminated in 2015. Restoring the oral health coordinator position is a crucial step in rebuilding that resource, and this is the time to do it — because oral health is health.

 

Judith Feinstein

Hallowell


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