BANGOR, Maine — Patricia Cerini has been having her teeth cleaned at the Dental Health Clinic on Texas Avenue since 1997.

That’s why she was at the clinic Thursday on the campus of University College of Bangor.

“I’ve been coming here a long, long time,” Cerini of Orrington said as she settled into the chair and student Kayla Hanington of Mattawamkeag adjusted a light. “They always do an excellent job.”

Cerini said she comes to the clinic because she does not have dental insurance. It cost Cerini $30 Thursday to have her teeth cleaned by a student at the clinic.

Since the mid-1970s, the clinic has operated out of 11,000 square feet of space in Lincoln Hall on Texas Avenue with mostly outdated equipment and little patient privacy. Most of the 18 dental chairs are arranged in a large, open room, and clients are not separated by dividers.

That will change next fall when the clinic is scheduled to move into 14,000 square feet of space in University College’s Campus Center. The University of Maine System board of trustees on Monday approved a $3 million renovation plan. Nearly two-thirds of the funds will come from system funds raised by tuition and the biennial legislative appropriation. The rest of the money will come from grants and money raised by voter-approved bonds.

A schematic walk thru of the new UCB Dental Hygiene Clinic

“We’ve been working on a plan to do this for about 10 years,” Diane Blanchette, dental health program coordinator at University College, said Thursday. “This will allow us to teach in an environment that is closer to what is used in daily practice. It will be much more similar to what they’ll find in the workplace.”

The new clinic will add seven dental chairs and allow the equipment to be replaced, according to Blanchette. All instruments will be updated, and computers will be at each station so students can view digital X-rays as they work. Most of the current equipment being used is 25 years old, and the portable cabinets where supplies are stored are older, she said.

The dental health program graduated its first class in 1975. It is one of only two three-year programs in the state to train dental hygienists. The other is at the University of New England in Westbrook, according to Blanchette.

Between 18 and 24 students graduate each year, and admission to the program is competitive, she said. The clinic serves nearly 1,000 patients a year. About 30 percent of them are senior citizens, about 30 percent are children and the rest are a mix of the age groups between, Blanchette said.

Students are allowed to practice their skills on other students in the fall semester of their second year of training. In the spring semester of that year, they may work at the clinic.

Danielle Boulgier, 22, of Orrington and Suzanne Dorman, 22, a Caribou native living in Bangor, practiced making impressions of each other’s mouths Thursday.

“I picked this career because as a little girl I loved getting my teeth cleaned and I loved my dental hygienist,” Dorman said. “One of the rewards is that you get to see the results of your work.”

“And we get to help people smile,” Boulgier said.

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