dental bay at FRCC's dental hygiene suite

Facility named after one of Colorado’s first African American dentists—civil rights activist Dr. Clarence Holmes.

FRCC recently completed an expansion of its Larimer Campus dental clinic—thanks, in part, to a generous 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 for the addition of new state-of-the-art handheld dental equipment, ensuring that students get the hands-on training they need to be successful in the dental field.  

FRCC is in the process of developing a new dental hygiene program thanks to a major grant from Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation (DDCOF). Creation of this new program will address an ongoing shortage of registered dental hygienists in Colorado.

The. Dr. Clarence Holmes Dental Suite

The naming of the new suite honors the legacy of dentist and civil rights activist Dr. Clarence Holmes. Holmes was the Denver Dental Society’s first African-American member. He served the community for more than 56 years from his dental office in the Five Points neighborhood.

Dr. Holmes working with a patient
Dr. Holmes working with patients in his office in Five Points.

After witnessing racial discrimination, segregation, and the increasing prevalence of the KKK in Denver, Dr. Holmes established the Denver Interracial Committee in 1916. He also helped to establish a local branch of the NAACP with the assistance of other local African American activists. 

In 1930, he founded the Cosmopolitan Club, which was dedicated to building interracial and interfaith understanding among Denver’s diverse communities. Club members represented an array of groups in Denver, including African Americans, Anglo Americans, Japanese Americans and Jewish Americans. The group’s motto was “Humanity above Race, Nationality and Creed.” Dr. Holmes led the group as president for more than 30 years.  Two of Dr. Holmes’ grandchildren—along with their families—joined FRCC to help cut the ribbon on the new dental suite.

Left to right: CCCS Chancellor Joe Garcia, FRCC President Dr. Colleen Simpson, and two of Dr. Clarence Holmes' grandchildren Les Berry and Elease Robbins cut the ribbon on the new dental suite
Left to right: CCCS Chancellor Joe Garcia, FRCC President Dr. Colleen Simpson, and two of Dr. Clarence Holmes’ grandchildren Les Berry and Elease Robbins cut the ribbon on the new dental suite.

Diversifying the Dental Workforce

The choice to honor Dr. Holmes at FRCC is integral to the college’s focus on ensuring this program is accessible for those traditionally underrepresented in dental hygiene—and in other health care fields. 

This state-of-the-art dental hygiene suite is designed to support FRCC’s pursuit to expand access and entry points into dental hygiene education and practice in the region.  

“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.”

Helping Alleviate Colorado’s Workforce Shortage

“This investment will help FRCC address oral health care workforce shortages by increasing capacity to train dental hygienists,” said DJ Close, 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.”

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 President Simpson. “By training more people to join this workforce, we’re reducing the barriers Coloradans face in accessing the care they need.”

Access to Rewarding Careers

“We’re also giving our students access to lucrative jobs,” Simpson said. “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.”  


FRCC already offers a one-year certificate in dental assisting. FRCC’s dental assisting program is currently the only program north of the Denver Metro area that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). The college is using the grant funding to build a new two-year associate degree program in dental hygiene, and expand its existing dental clinic to serve the local community.

“This expansion provides 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’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.”

Growing Our Dental Clinic


Currently, the FRCC dental clinic has an established patient population who get contacted when the college is offering dental 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—basically 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 limited and the number of appointments varies based on how many students are in the program and how they complete their required clinical hours.


With the expansion of FRCC’s dental programing and facilities, the college will be able to provide preventative oral health care. Preventative dentistry involves oral health assessments, teeth cleaning, dental exams and x-rays, oral cancer screening and patient education—in order to preventing tooth decay and disease before it happens.

Developing the new dental hygiene program will enable FRCC’s programs to expand the services they provide to the community. When fully operational, the college’s dental team hopes 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 FRCC’s dental programs grow. 

State-of-the-Art Facilities

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 the new dental hygiene program 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,” said Peach.

“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 Close.

Workforce and Health Care Equity

Increasing capacity in this career pathway will 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,” added FRCC’s president. “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.

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