Northeast Delta Dental announces $5M workforce investment

Addressing dental workforce shortage, access to care and increasing costs

CONCORD, December 18, 2023 -- Northeast Delta Dental announces a $5 million investment in response to rising costs and continued workforce shortages impacting Northeast Delta Dental providers and consumers.

“Workforce challenges pose a critical concern in all three of our states, adversely affecting dental practices and potentially hindering the delivery of quality care to patients,” explained Tom Raffio, President & CEO, Northeast Delta Dental. “This investment in the workforce will directly support the challenges our providers are facing and assist in deterring additional impact on rising costs for our customers.”

Indicators of the impact being felt by the provider community, both locally and nationally, include a decreased availability of hygienists, in part due to retirement but also to a lack of availability of trained professionals. The data from Lightcast, a global leader in labor market analytics, highlighting the sole hygienist training program in NH noted only 29 graduates for 103 openings in the region in 2020. These shortages, coupled with other rising expenses, are in line with the August consumer price index report, showing the cost of dental services up 5.3% in the past year. 

In addition, a 2021 Journal of Dental Hygiene study suggested COVID-19 has led to significant reduction in the dental hygiene workforce, highlighting the eight percent reduction in dental hygienist employment during the pandemic due to childcare and safety concerns.

“The Workforce Investment is addressing the challenges of rising costs and staff shortages that dentists are facing,” continued Raffio. “Offsetting these costs can also benefit patients who may be encountering lower access to care as well as rising premiums.”

To complement the Workforce Investment, Northeast Delta Dental has launched several other initiatives aimed at increasing the availability of comprehensive and high-quality oral healthcare including:

  • Providing $6M in funding over three years to be used for dental student loan repayments, in an effort to attract more dentists to Northern New England. The program is administered by the Recruitment Center at Bi-State Primary Care Association (Bi-State)
  • Awarding a $665,000 gift to the University of Maine at Augusta, doubling the number of dental units into UMA’s Lewiston Center Dental Clinic allowing for more clinical rotations to occur and implementing a $100,000 student scholarship program to those enrolling in the Dental Assisting (DA) or Expanded Function Dental Assisting (EFDA) programs which will increase the number of trained dental professionals entering the workforce.
  • Continuing a mentorship program with a $150,000 gift, students at Tufts University, School of Dental Medicine are matched with dentists from across northern New England to receive hands-on experience and learn best practices in small business ownership.