Free Brunswick Oasis Clinic Raises Funds to Boost Dental Program


On Friday, Oasis Free Clinic General Manager Anita Ruff stands inside a dental clinic. C. Thacher Carter / The time record

Brunswick’s Oasis Free Clinic will host a fundraising event early next year to help boost the association’s dental clinic, which has seen a drop in patient numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oasis Free Clinic provides free medical and dental services to low-income and uninsured residents of Freeport, Brunswick, Durham, Harpswell and Sagadahoc County.

The fundraising event will consist of three virtual cooking classes guided by local chefs. This will be the second year that the organization has held the fundraiser, which raised approximately $ 12,000 last year.

“We’ve had to really change course when it comes to fundraising, we’ve always done direct appeals and written grant applications and haven’t done much around events,” said Anita Ruff, CEO of the free Oasis clinic.

In fiscal 2018, the organization’s dental clinic reported 1,071 visits among 249 patients. After this year, the number of patients and visits began to decline due to the challenges of the pandemic. In fiscal 2020, the clinic saw 605 dental visits in 112 patients and in 2021, 411 visits in 154 patients. Oasis’ fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Before the pandemic, the dental clinic had about 15 volunteers, according to Ruff. When COVID-19 hit, volunteers left Oasis either due to health concerns or to face challenges in their own separate dental offices. In fiscal 2018, the clinic recorded 3,399 volunteer hours compared to 2,576 in 2021.

Today there are around five volunteers left and Oasis is now trying to hire a full-time dentist to serve patients, a position that Ruff says will help solve one of the clinic’s biggest challenges.

“The need for free dental care in our community is overwhelming,” said Ruff.

Finding and keeping a dentist has been difficult, said Ruff. Dentists have one of the highest risks of exposure to COVID-19, according to the United States Department of Labor. The position was originally advertised as a part-time position, but due to a shortage of applicants, Ruff has increased it to full-time, which will lead to budget challenges.

Rick Smith, 55, of Brunswick is one of hundreds of patients who use the services offered at the free Oasis clinic. He started going to Oasis a few months ago and found help from medical and dental services.

“I kind of made my living working at seasonal resorts, and it’s a pretty good deal, but they don’t usually offer any type of health care,” Smith said. “I wentogle for cheap health care and ended up finding Oasis.”

Smith said dental clinic volunteers identified he had infected gums. He has taken the first x-rays and is waiting for a call to schedule a follow-up appointment to have teeth extracted. He was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the medical clinic.

“For someone like me in my income bracket, health care is just a gamble you take and it’s a bit out of my reach,” Smith said, adding, “I wish I could have remembered. the name of the nurse; she was an absolute peach. Very kind, empathetic, helpful – she explained the process to me and stuff like that.

The Oasis Free Clinic’s annual operating budget this year is approximately $ 500,000, with the two main expenses being personnel and dental supplies.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, dental disease may be “the most common but preventable disease known.” In 2008, the most recent data available, only 53% of Mainers had dental insurance, and by 2011, 51% of all adults in Maine had lost at least one of their permanent teeth. Nationally, the CDC estimates that just under 26% of adults between the ages of 20 and 44 have untreated tooth decay.

Fundraising cooking classes start at 6 p.m. on January 15, February 12, and March 12. For more information, visit CookingWithOasis.org

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