Old YMCA building poised to find new life as dental technology school

Posted Aug. 07, 2013, at 11:51 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The building on Hammond Street that was for many years the home of the Bangor YMCA is getting a new lease on life.

William “Bill” Buxton, one of the founders of the New England Denture Center at 12 Stillwater Ave. in Bangor, purchased the building in May. He is now in the process of having the building converted from an oil to a propane gas heating system and getting assessments for what needs to be done to upgrade plumbing and other systems in the building. This is in preparation for the establishment of his new venture, the New England School of Dental Technology.

The school, Buxton said, will offer denturist, dental assisting, dental technician and dental office management programs. The facility also will create approximately 15 jobs for maintanence and administrative staff.

“We will use the [building’s] main administrative block on the first floor where patients will be seen and the classrooms on the top floor, where the dental laboratory also will be,” Buxton said.

“We want to keep the history of the Y in place — the rooms and basketball court that are named after people, the wall with the names of donors.”

The need for a school to train new denturists is an important one, he said. “There are only twenty-two denturists in Maine and eight of those are due to retire. There’s no way to access new denturists in the U.S. because there are no schools here to train them,” he said.

The only program in Maine, sanctioned by the Maine Board of Dental Examiners, that trained denturists, through distance learning under the auspices of George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has closed down, he said. George Brown College offers a three-year denturist program and other dental health professional programs through its school of dental health.

Buxton said he expects to receive curriculum approval from the National Denturist Association for the new school on Aug. 14. The next step will be to receive approval from the International Federation of Denturists, which he expects in October, when that organization convenes in Montreal.

“We designed the curriculum to exceed baseline competencies, the guidelines for what the school must teach,” Buxton said.

Buxton’s ultimate goal is to receive approval from the Maine Department of Education to grant diplomas, so that graduates from the denturist program can establish their own licensed practices.

The school will accept only 100 students per year in all four programs, 50 from Maine and 50 from other states. Classes will be in the distance-learning format conducted by way of Skype by professors from George Brown College. Students with previous college credit or degrees in related sciences could enter the school and be exempt from taking some courses. Classes will run five days a week, all year, plus externships in dental offices or the New England Denture Center. “It’s pretty exciting,” Buxton said.

“There is a huge underserved population in Maine that can’t afford dental care. We plan to work with Maine Care to serve patients who fall through the cracks,” Buxton said. “We [New England Denture Center] already work with Knox County and and Biddeford Free Clinic to provide free denture services.”

Plans for use of the rest of the old YMCA building also are in the works. Private entities have made inquiries about opening the basketball courts and the weight room and gym, but nothing has been settled yet, Buxton said.

“The rest [of the building] will be rented out for private office space,” Buxton said. “Eventually, the building will be full again.”

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