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J Dent Hyg. 2019 Jun;93(3):15-21.

Opinions on Dental Therapists: A comparison of dentists and dental hygienists in the Pacific Northwest.


Purpose: As the United States continues to face increasing demands for oral health care, many states are examining alternative provider models as well as the role the dental hygienist (DH) can play in meeting access to care needs. The purpose of this study was to assess the opinions of dentists and DHs about incorporating a dental therapist (DT) into a regional dental group (RDG) located in the Pacific Northwest.Methods: Cross-sectional, validated electronic surveys were sent to the dentists (n=220) and DHs (n=187) employed by a RDG. Survey items included open and close ended questions and Likert scale items. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data.Results: Responses were received from 38% of the dentists (n= 84) and 46% of the DHs surveyed (n=86). Dentists and DHs differed significantly in their opinions of the need for a DT midlevel provider, the level of supervision needed, scope of practice, and appropriate tuition for DT education programs (p<0.001). Three-fourths of the DH respondents indicated that they were very or somewhat interested in becoming a DT. A majority of dentists (58%) and DHs (76%) were open to having a DT as part of their RDG (p=0.017).Conclusion: Although dentists and DHs differed significantly in their opinions regarding the dental therapy midlevel provider, the majority of dentists and DHs surveyed were open to having a DT as part of their team within the RDG.


access to care; dental hygiene workforce; dental therapists; midlevel providers; public health


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