The project was already moving forward, but Community Dental Care got a jolt of good news last month.
Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation recently announced that it approved a $1 million grant to support the new 18-chair dental clinic that's being constructed just off U.S. Highway 14 in Southeast Rochester. A ceremonial groundbreaking attended by dozens of local dignitaries, including Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, was held Sept. 14.
The city previously approved a $2.25 million loan to help fund the $3.9 million project. Fundraising is underway to fill the remaining funding gap with the expectation of opening the facility next fall. Nine of the 18 chairs are expected to be operational when it opens.
"We are so happy to support this project, which will bring accessible dental care to an area of the state that has demonstrated a significant need, and to do so with a partner who has a proven record of meeting those needs," said Joe Lally, executive director of Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. "We know that oral health is key to overall health, and we believe that every single person deserves a healthy smile. This new clinic will make a substantial impact for thousands of Minnesotans who otherwise would not have access to quality care."
Community Dental Care is currently operating a six-chair dental facility out of a small space on Rochester Community and Technical College's campus to fill "a significant, unmet need for oral health care in southeastern Minnesota." That site has a two-month waiting list for dental appointments and a seven-month waiting list to see a hygienist.
According to data provided by Community Dental Care, around 70 percent of the 71,000 residents in and around Olmsted County eligible for public programs did not receive care. Just 43 percent of the 10,000 Medicaid-eligible children visited a dentist.
The new facility is expected to create up to 35 full-time jobs while providing primary dental care to about 10,000 people annually. The targeted audience is low-income families and those living in poverty, who might otherwise not be able to afford dental care. Programming at the clinic will include preventative education for families.
"The need for dental services in Rochester and our surrounding communities is enormous," said Dr. Vacharee Peterson, CEO of Community Dental Care. "Too many people are going without even a simple exam, which can prevent the need for serious or emergency dental procedures in the future. This new clinic will transform dental care access for thousands of these children and families in need. We are grateful for the support and the trust from Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation."
Community Dental Care is one of the largest nonprofit dental clinics in the state, operating facilities in St. Paul, Maplewood, Robbinsdale and Rochester. It cared fir more than 43,000 patients in 2015.
Since 2011, Delta Dental has invested more than $21 million in grants across the state to help improve care and promote dental health.