Front Range Community College plans to develop a new dental hygiene program thanks to a major grant from Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation (DDCOF). The creation of this new program will address an ongoing shortage of registered dental hygienists in Colorado.
FRCC already offers a one-year certificate in dental assisting. The college plans to use the $835,000 grant to build a new two-year associate degree program in dental hygiene and expand its existing dental clinic to serve the local community.
“Front Range Community College is working to expand our programming in this area so that we can meet the changing needs of our students and communities,” said FRCC President Colleen Simpson, EdD. “With such significant support from Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, we are eager to start growing—and diversifying—the pool of dental hygienists in Colorado.”
“This investment will help FRCC address oral health care workforce shortages by increasing capacity to train dental hygienists,” said Adeeb Khan, executive director of DDCOF. “It will also provide more direct career pathways in the field of oral health for diverse populations. We are proud to collaborate with FRCC as a partner that has a solid track record of elevating equity in health care.”
Helping Alleviate Colorado’s Workforce Shortage
According to the American Dental Association, dentists report that staffing shortages have decreased their practices’ capacity to serve patients by an estimated 11%. This shortage in the workforce compounds issues for Coloradans who already struggle to access dental care.
“Seeing a dentist improves people’s overall health,” added Simpson. “By training more people to join this workforce, we’re reducing the barriers Coloradans face in accessing the care they need.”
“We’re also giving our students access to lucrative jobs. The dental hygiene profession pays a median income of $97,000/year. FRCC’s new program will offer our students an exceptional return on their educational investment.”
“We cannot meet Colorado’s workforce gaps without doing a better job of educating underrepresented populations,” said Colorado Community College System Chancellor Joe Garcia. “That’s why Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation has emerged as such as strong partner. Their leadership recognizes the need to diversify their industry and is investing in our programs to make that possible.”
Front Range Community College has the only dental assistant program north of the Denver Metro area accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). The funding will help FRCC add ten dental chairs to its six-chair dental clinic.
“This expansion will provide us the space to develop a comprehensive dental clinic where dental assisting and dental hygiene students work alongside dentists in a collaborative environment to provide low-cost dental care to the community,” said Angie Peach, FRCC’s Dean of Health Sciences & Wellness.
“We plan to create an environment that is focused on hands-on learning—giving students a chance to practice the skills they learn in the classroom—and where they’ll have opportunities to bolster their career through education.”
FRCC’s existing health and wellness programs provide rigorous hands-on training that prepares students to become skilled practitioners who serve local communities. The new program will be co-located with the college’s pre-existing CODA-accredited dental assisting program.
The college recently constructed a state-of-the-art healthcare careers building at the Larimer Campus, where the new dental hygiene program will be housed. This facility and its high-tech equipment support students’ education in 13 health and wellness fields.
“Co-locating this new program in Front Range’s leading-edge allied health building will really help students in the college’s existing dental assistant program understand what it means to take the next step in their careers and studies as future dental hygienists,” added Khan.
Workforce and Health Care Equity
Increasing capacity in this career pathway will help ensure that more Coloradans can prioritize their oral health, ultimately lessening overall health inequities that persist for different communities and demographics in rural and urban areas in the state.
“In addition to training more qualified professionals for the dental health workforce, we want our dental health professionals to better reflect the demographics of our local communities,” added Simpson. “One of our goals for the new program is to have 20% of its students identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
As the largest community college in Colorado, FRCC is dedicated to achieving equity in outcomes for groups that higher education institutions have historically underserved. The college is working to close degree attainment gaps by creating an environment that fully supports and serves all students.