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J Dent Educ. 2017 Sep;81(9):eS65-eS72. doi: 10.21815/JDE.017.036.

Dental Therapists as New Oral Health Practitioners: Increasing Access for Underserved Populations.

Author information

1
Dr. Brickle is Dean of Health Sciences, Normandale Community College and Faculty and Liaison, Metropolitan State Dental Hygiene Department; Dr. Self is Associate Professor and Director, Division of Dental Therapy, Department of Primary Dental Care, School of Dentistry, University of Minnesota. Colleen.Brickle@normandale.edu.
2
Dr. Brickle is Dean of Health Sciences, Normandale Community College and Faculty and Liaison, Metropolitan State Dental Hygiene Department; Dr. Self is Associate Professor and Director, Division of Dental Therapy, Department of Primary Dental Care, School of Dentistry, University of Minnesota.

Abstract

The development of dental therapy in the U.S. grew from a desire to find a workforce solution for increasing access to oral health care. Worldwide, the research that supports the value of dental therapy is considerable. Introduction of educational programs in the U.S. drew on the experiences of programs in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, with Alaska tribal communities introducing dental health aide therapists in 2003 and Minnesota authorizing dental therapy in 2009. Currently, two additional states have authorized dental therapy, and two additional tribal communities are pursuing the use of dental therapists. In all cases, the care provided by dental therapists is focused on communities and populations who experience oral health care disparities and have historically had difficulties in accessing care. This article examines the development and implementation of the dental therapy profession in the U.S. An in-depth look at dental therapy programs in Minnesota and the practice of dental therapy in Minnesota provides insight into the early implementation of this emerging profession. Initial results indicate that the addition of dental therapists to the oral health care team is increasing access to quality oral health care for underserved populations. As evidence of dental therapy's success continues to grow, mid-level dental workforce legislation is likely to be introduced by oral health advocates in other states. This article was written as part of the project "Advancing Dental Education in the 21st Century."

KEYWORDS:

allied dental education; allied dentistry; dental therapy; intraprofessional dental team member; oral health practitioner

PMID:
28864806
DOI:
10.21815/JDE.017.036
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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