OAKLAND — Shannon Grip and her children have been visiting the Waterville Community Dental Center for years, so naturally they showed up at the center’s longtime location at The Center in Waterville for appointments Wednesday, only to realize they were in the wrong spot.

After more than 18 years in The Center, the nonprofit dental center moved into a new space in Oakland’s First Park at the end of December to accommodate plans to transform The Center into a downtown arts hub.

“It’s beautiful,” said Grip, of Albion, as her two children got their teeth cleaned Wednesday. “It’s a total upgrade. It really is. It’s just brighter. There’s more space. No one’s bumping into each other.”

The move represents a $1.2 million investment in the dental center, which specializes in providing affordable dental care to low-income patients, the uninsured and under-insured.

Over the last year, the center raised almost all of the money needed. It recently received a $500,000 grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation and are now just $35,000 short of their goal.

“It’s miraculous,” said Barbara Covey, chairman of the board of the Waterville Community Dental Center. “At the same time, I knew deep in my heart from the beginning if people really understood the importance of this we could get the community to support it.”

Being able to keep the center alive in a new space was critical, Covey said, as dental care is a foundation for overall health and it is often difficult for low-income patients and the uninsured to access care.

Maine is one of 13 states that don’t provide for dental care, except emergency work, for adults through Medicaid, though children can access preventive care through MaineCare.

The new space located at 2 Evergreen Drive relocates the center from an aging space in The Center into a renovated physical therapy office that employees said serves their patients much better.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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