Oasis Free Clinic Executive Director Anita Ruff standing inside a dental clinic on Friday. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Brunswick’s Oasis Free Clinic will hold a fundraising event early next year to help boost the nonprofit’s dental clinic, which saw a decline in patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oasis Free Clinic provides free medical and dental services for low-income, 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 organization’s second year hosting the fundraiser, which brought in about $12,000 last year.

“We have had to really shift our gears around fundraising, we have historically always done direct appeals and grant writing and haven’t done much around events,” said Oasis Free Clinic Executive Director Anita Ruff.

In fiscal year 2018, the organization’s dental clinic reported 1071 visits among 249 patients. After that year, the number of patients and visits began to trend downward due to pandemic related challenges. During the 2020 fiscal year, the clinic saw 605 dental visits among 112 patients and in 2021, 411 visits among 154 patients. Oasis’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Prior to pandemic the dental clinic was staffed by around 15 volunteers, according to Ruff. When COVID-19 hit, volunteers left Oasis either due to health concerns or to navigate challenges in their own, separate dental practices. In fiscal year 2018, the clinic logged 3,399 volunteer hours compared to 2,576 in 2021.


Today, about five volunteers remain, and Oasis is now trying to hire a full-time dentist to serve patients, a position that Ruff said will help solve one of the largest challenges at the clinic.

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

Finding and retaining a dentist has been difficult, Ruff said. According to the United States Department of Labor, dentists have one of the highest risks for exposure to COVID-19. The position was initially advertised as a part time position, but due to a scarcity of applicants Ruff increased it to full time, which will bring budgetary challenges along with it.

Rick Smith, 55, of Brunswick is one of the hundreds of patients that uses the services offered at Oasis Free Clinic. He started going to Oasis a couple of months ago and has found help on from both the medical and dental services.

“I’ve kind of made a living off of working at seasonal resorts, and it’s a pretty good business but they generally don’t offer any kind of healthcare,” said Smith. “I googled low-cost health care, and I ended up finding Oasis.”

Smith said the volunteers at the dental clinic identified that he had infected gums. He took the initial x-rays and is awaiting a call about scheduling a follow-up appointment to extract some teeth. He was also diagnosed with type two diabetes in the medical clinic.


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

Oasis Free Clinic’s annual operating budget this year is around $500,000, with the top two expenses being staff and dental supplies.

Dental disease may be “the most prevalent yet preventable disease known,” according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, the most recently available data, only 53% of Mainers had dental insurance and, as of 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 aged 20 to 44 have untreated tooth decay.

The fundraising cooking classes begin at 6 p.m. on Jan. 15, Feb. 12 and March 12. For more information, visit CookingWithOasis.org

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.