The 2012 Oral Health Heroes have been named by the Maine Dental Access Coalition. This award is given to people and programs that have demonstrated outstanding leadership and a strong commitment to improving the state of oral health in Maine through oral health advocacy, organizing and service.
This year’s legislative heroes are state Sen. Christopher Rector, R-Thomaston, and state Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. Also being honored are Waterville Pediatrics and Timothy Oh, founder of Caring Hands of Maine of Ellsworth.
“Access to oral health care continues to be a serious problem in Maine, especially for those relying on our safety net system — those who are uninsured, underinsured or covered through public insurance,” said Susan Cote, coalition vice chairwoman. “This year’s heroes were chosen for their willingness to explore and support new models of delivering oral health care.”
Waterville Pediatrics is at the forefront of a growing trend of medical providers who are integrating oral health into the overall health care of patients and using dental hygienists as part of the health team. This meets an acute need for children between infancy and age 4, when most do not see dentists yet the opportunity for disease prevention is great.
Oh established a nonprofit clinic, Caring Hands of Maine of Ellsworth, in response to the need he saw for dental care for lower income families and MaineCare members. He was also a prime mover in getting a volunteer team from the New York University dental school to Washington County to provide free oral health care.
Both Rector and Eves have long been champions of making sure that state policy reflects that good oral health care is in fact health care and must be supported to avoid long-term health and employability consequences for Maine residents.