FRCC hosted a free Community Dental Hygiene Day earlier this month in the college’s newly expanded dental clinic at our Larimer Campus in Fort Collins. Students in our dental assisting program got to help prep the equipment and dental treatment spaces, while shadowing dental hygienists who provided free dental cleanings and oral cancer screening exams to 20 community members.
FRCC recently completed an expansion of its Larimer Campus dental clinic—construction just wrapped up in November—thanks in part to a $600,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation.
The project added 10 new dental operating units, as well as a sterilization room, dentist office and storage bays. The grant funding also allowed us to add new state-of-the-art handheld dental equipment, ensuring that our students get the hands-on training they need to be successful in the dental field.
Open Wide, Fort Collins
With all these new developments, FRCC wanted to share the newly expanded clinic space with our community, while providing increased access to dental care in Northern Colorado.
The Colorado Health Foundation grant is empowering the college to offer these free (or low-cost) community care days. It’s also supporting development of a new dental hygiene program at FRCC by providing funding to purchase additional dental hygiene-focused equipment.
All of this came about after an earlier $835,000 grant—from Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation (DDCOF)—which is helping FRCC to pursue the development of a new dental hygiene program. Building this new program would help to address an ongoing shortage of registered dental hygienists in Colorado.
Colorado Needs Hygienists
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.
This major investment will help FRCC address workforce shortages in oral health care by increasing capacity for training. It will also provide more direct career pathways in the field of oral health for diverse populations. As a college community, we are proud to help elevate equity in health care.
Dental Hygienists enter into a field with access to lucrative jobs. The dental hygiene profession pays a median income of $97,000/year. FRCC’s dental programs offer our students an exceptional return on their educational investment.
Free Community Day
We know that seeing a dentist improves people’s overall health. By training more people to join this workforce, we’re reducing the barriers Coloradans face in accessing the care they need.
While FRCC already offers low-cost dental care at our clinic, last month’s clinic was the first free community dental care day that the college has held where we have provided dental cleanings. Dental services for the free community day were provided by two registered dental hygienists.
This was also a great learning opportunity for FRCC’s dental assisting students to put their knowledge and training to good use. The students were responsible for:
- preparing the rooms;
- setting up trays and equipment;
- reviewing medical history;
- maintaining infection control before, during, and after the procedure;
- communicating with patients;
- assisting the hygienists chairside;
- coronal polishing and fluoride varnish placement;
- providing post-op care and oral hygiene instructions to the patients.
Our students enjoyed being able to showcase their skills, as well as helping provide a service to those who otherwise could not afford it.
Growing Our Dental Clinic
Restorative Dental Care
Currently, the FRCC dental clinic has an established patient population that we connect with when we are offering services. Local dentists come into the clinic to perform restorative dental care. The restorative side of dental care is more focused on the care and treatment of dental decay and disease. Think of this as fixing problems after they already exist.
Students in our existing dental assisting program serve as the dentist’s assistant during these procedures. The services offered are very limited and the number of appointments varies based on how many students we have and how they complete their required clinical hours.
Preventive Dental Care
With the expansion of FRCC’s dental programing and facilities, the college will be able to provide preventative dentistry care. Preventative dentistry involves teeth cleaning, oral check-ups, oral cancer screening and patient education. Overall, it’s about preventing tooth decay and disease before it happens.
As the college pursues the development of its new dental hygiene program, we are looking forward to being able to expand the services that we provide to the community. By 2026, we hope to be able to offer more than 2,000 patient appointments each year!
The dental clinic is currently open for existing patients and will expand to accept more patients as our dental programs grow.
Front Range Community College currently has the only dental assistant program north of the Denver Metro area that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
The expansion of our programs and clinic is providing FRCC the space to develop a more comprehensive dental clinic where dental students get to work alongside dentists in a collaborative environment to provide low-cost dental care to the community.
We’re creating 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 our students to become skilled practitioners who serve our local communities.
The college recently constructed a state-of-the-art health care careers building at our Larimer Campus, where dental programming will be housed. This facility and its high-tech equipment support students’ education in 13 health and wellness fields.
Our goal is to bring dental students in different programs together to help them understand what it means to take the next step in their careers and studies as they scaffold within their profession.
Workforce and Health Care Equity
Increasing capacity in this career pathway will also help ensure that more Coloradans are able to 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. One of our goals for our dental programming is to have 20% of 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.