More than 78 percent of Maine residents support the creation of a new type of dental care provider. The poll surveyed 400 residents between November 9th and the 22nd, and was conducted by Pan Atlantic Consulting.
Patrick Murphy, the research firm’s president, stated, “This poll shows unequivocally that a strong majority of Mainers are worried about access to dental care. Democrats, Republicans and Independents all agree that this is an important solution to Maine’s dental crisis.” The Pan Atlantic poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
Barely half of all children enrolled in MaineCare see a dentist each year, and the need to train and license new types of dental providers is crucial to improving access to care. More than 516,000 Maine residents live in areas of the state that are confirmed as having a shortage of dentists. Roughly 40 percent of Maine’s dentists are nearing retirement.
“In a poll like this, offering a new idea, typically most respondents say they don’t know enough. But in this poll, even though the idea of a new dental provider has not been heavily debated, Mainers see this as a simple straight-forward solution. The numbers were very consistent in the North and South, and across age and gender. People in Maine seem to be looking for an answer to help them get the dental care they need,” said Murphy.
The poll results are being released to coincide with a public briefing today that a committee of the Maine Legislature received about a national study on dental care that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released last year. Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign and a member of the IOM study panel, presented today’s briefing. The IOM was established in 1970 as the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, and Newsweek has called IOM reports “the gold standard for health-care policymakers.”
Gehshan addressed the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development, outlining the benefits of a new type of dental care provider as well as discussing the lack of access in Maine.
“We have a dental care system that actually serves only about two-thirds of the public. The IOM concluded that improving access for the remaining one-third of the population will require a comprehensive approach. We recommended that states mount effective prevention programs, use existing dental providers more efficiently and develop new providers to reach unserved populations,” said Gehshan.