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New dental residency program to bring dentists to rural health centers in N.H.

A dentists looks at the teeth of a person in the dental chair as another medical professional looks on.
Wikimedia Commons
New Hampshire’s first dental residency program could be up and running as soon as next month.

Stephanie Pagliuca used to joke that she would retire once New Hampshire got a dental residency program, but now, she’s finally getting her wish.

“It turns out I'm not ready to retire yet,” said Pagliuca, who does workforce development for Bi-State Primary Care Association, which works with health centers across New Hampshire and Vermont.

New Hampshire’s first dental residency program could be up and running as soon as next month, bringing three new dentists per year to rural New Hampshire clinics that are short staffed in areas like Keene and Bristol. These clinics see many of the state's low-income and older patients with significant dental issues.

It’s Pagliuca’s hope that some of the residents will stay in New Hampshire to practice after their year-long program ends, which could help alleviate the shortage of dentists that has caused some rural clinics, like Mascoma Community Health Center, to pause dental services.

Pagliuca and others helping launch the new dental residency program, like Dr. Christine Riedy, said it’s coming at a critical time in New Hampshire. State legislators just expanded the Medicaid dental benefit to include care like tooth cleanings and cavity fillings, which will take effect next spring.

“So this program really is to build capacity,” said Riedy, who chairs the Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, which is operating the program.

Anika Husain, a student at New York University's college of dentistry, is exactly the type of soon-to-be dentist the program is hoping to recruit. She wants to learn early in her career how to care for patients exhibiting an array of dental problems. At 25, she’s also excited to find mentors in the seasoned dentists she works alongside. She’s already talked to some of the staff at the New Hampshire clinics.

“They seemed amazing,” she said, “telling me about the work they were doing and how I could get involved in the work as well.”

Husain is planning to apply to be a resident in the program for next year.

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