On May 1, the foundation joined Governor Jared Polis in announcing $5 million worth of grants was going to community colleges throughout Colorado.
In Colorado Springs, a portion of that money will help PPSC move its dental assistant program to a new location. PPPSC will also be able to expand that program to include a dental hygienist program.
According to the American Dental Association, dentist-reported staffing shortages have resulted in an estimated 11% decrease in practice capacity. According to the DDCOF, the grants are meant to address the shortages.
Since the pandemic, Colorado has been seeing a significant shortage projected at 37% in the dental workforce.
"COVID had a significant role in it where some providers left the profession because of the increased risk," PPSC Dental Center Director Ewa Posorski said. "But also with only four dental hygiene schools in Colorado, we weren't producing enough hygienists. With the influx of population and the projections going forward, it just compounds the effects."
In Colorado, there are only four accredited dental hygiene training facilities in the state, With the nearest facilities being in Denver or Pueblo, it could be difficult for someone living in Colorado Springs to gain access to training.
Currently, the dental assistant program enrolls 20 students. In the new building, the program will be able to accept 36, students. The new dental hygiene program will admit 30 students.
At the PPSC Dental Center on the Rampart Range Campus, as part of the curriculum, twice a week the students see real patients from the community at low cost as part of their training under the supervision of a licensed dentist.
After moving into the new building, college officials expect to service 200 patients per week.
The new building will house both programs under one roof, with two clinics and 20 chairs.
"What we're trying to do here at Pikes Peak is utilize the existing dental assistant program to channel some students who want to go further into dental hygiene," Posorski said.
Paola Hernandez is a second-year dental assistant student at PPSC. She plans on coming back to study dental hygiene after she graduates and works in the field for a year.
"I wanna do the dental hygiene program once it starts," Hernandez said. "Right now this is a stepping stone to being a dental assistant. My first plan was always to do dental hygiene but I did my research and the only programs were in Denver or Pueblo. So I'm really excited."
The new center is currently being renovated, with an estimated completion date of August 2024.
The dental hygiene program is expected to open in August 2025.
With this expansion and new program, PPSC is expected to have a significant impact on reducing the shortage in the workforce.