BANGOR — Maine has its first dental therapist.
According to a statement from Penobscot Community Health Care, dental therapists are much like a physician assistant is to a doctor. Claire Roesler is the first dental therapist in Maine. The state legislature passed a bill in 2014 that created this position. The act is “to improve access to oral health care”.
She received her Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Science at Iowa State University and both her Bachelor of Dental Hygiene and Master of Dental Therapy from the University of Minnesota.
Roesler got her job at PCHC Dental Center roughly six months ago, and Executive Division Director Angela Chase said it was like finding a unicorn in a field of horses.
According to PCHC, Maine is currently suffering from low dental providers, and there are numerous factors involved. A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts said the rural geography of Maine, low access to MaineCare insurance providers and a rapidly aging dental workforce are negatively impacting access.
Roesler grew up in the rural midwest and knows what it’s like to need dental care. She said her role plays a major part in helping the doctor at the office.
“We take things off the dentist’s schedule so that their schedule is freer to provide more access and more of those complex procedures, so the dental therapist can take on some of those simpler things like doing fillings,” Roesler said. She said she deals with dental emergencies every day, and what she loves most is being able to provide care.
“I love that PCHC is really mission-based, and they have that vision of wanting to provide access to care, wanting to provide high-quality care to all patients,” Roesler said.
Chase said they were lucky to get a recruiter to bring Roesler to the state.
Chase said she hopes to see more dental therapists become available in Maine so that children and adults alike can get easier, faster and safer access to dental care hopefully without a needed dentist in the office.
She said schools are working on creating a degree for dental therapy and thinks the pandemic is only speeding up the process.