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Can You Hear Me Now?

I'm sure we have all seen the wireless phone commercials with the "can you hear me now" guy, and the large network that follows him wherever he goes. If they had filmed that commercial in Maine his network would have been much smaller and much less reliable-maybe one or two people who sometimes follow him around and at other times are nowhere to be found.

Consistent, reliable, and fast internet and cell phone connectivity is fundamental to competing in the global economy.  While a great deal has been said and done around the issue of network connection in the state to support business development and access to education, Maine still suffers inconsistent and unreliable connections in our more rural areas. Recently, I learned this also has a huge impact on Maine's oral health safety net.

It's a fact. Recruiting and retaining dentists in Maine is already very difficult, largely due to the rural nature of our state.  But what I learned on a recent learning collaborative call for safety net dental clinics is that there is another reason - unreliable and slow internet connections and spotty cell phone service.  An expert advisor that has consulted with dental practices in 49 out of 50 states, including Alaska, said that he has not been in a state where it is more difficult to recruit and retain dentists than it is in Maine.  His reasons?  Travel distance and the condition of the roads of course, but he also highlighted cell phone service.  He said he has not been in another state where his cell phone service has been as unreliable as it has been in Maine.

So the next time your cell phone drops a call, or you don't have reception when you're on the road for work, think about more than the inconvenience it causes you.  Think about the most vulnerable among us who find it difficult to access oral health services due to a shortage of dentists practicing throughout Maine. Reliable network connections are not only essential for our state's economy, they're also critical to the state of our oral health.

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