DSOs are Moving into Maine

Heartland Dental, the largest dental support organization in the United States, recently gained its first supported dental office in Maine, bringing the DSO’s nationwide footprint to 34 states.  But Heartland is not the first DSO to enter the market there. Aspen Dental has nine practices in Maine, a state where 15 of 16 counties have dental health professional shortage areas as designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DSOs integration into Maine’s dental landscape may continue.  The Portland Press Herald reports that “Maine is likely to suffer a shortage of medical professionals in the coming years unless the industry boosts student enrollment at health care-related schools in the state and recruits more workers from outside Maine. Additionally, 41 percent of Mainers live in rural areas which typically have a lower average income, higher rates of poverty and unemployment and lower levels of educational attainment therefore recruiting and retaining health care providers in those regions is more difficult than in more urban areas.

The workforce development problem will be especially dire in the fields of dentistry and psychology, in which two-thirds of all current practitioners in the state are older than 50 years old, said the report, by the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information.”

Driving Maine’s increasing need for medical care professionals is its aging population.   The Labor Center also reports that, “approximately 30 percent of the workforce may need to be replaced over the coming decade due to retirements and those otherwise exiting the occupation. Maine’s workforce is older than that of the nation which could result in even higher retirement rates. Nearly one third of Maine’s dentists are above 60 years old. Nationally, 20 percent are above 60.”

Maine has recently recognized and licensed a new type of midlevel provider known as a dental therapist to help improve access to care, especially for underserved populations.  The University of New England’s College of Dental Medicine, the first dental school in northern New England, opened in fall 2013.  The inaugural entering dental class (Class of 2017) included 64 students, 24 of which were from Maine.

Sources: Heartland, Market Wired, PRNewswire , Portland Press Herald, Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, Maine’s Department of Labor, Aspen Dental

Written by Beth Miller, contributor, GDN