University of Minnesota School of Dentistry Becomes the First College to Offer Dental Therapy Track

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Despite the innovative program’s proven track record, the number of states allowing dental therapists to provide oral health care remains at two: Minnesota and Alaska allow dental therapists to provide basic care in place of a full-fledged dentist. We can only hope that more states follow their lead. More dental therapists in practice means more dentists are free to provide specialized care. At the same time, having dental therapists means better access to oral health care for vulnerable populations.

Some, however—most notably the American Dental Association—aren’t entirely sold on the idea and are offering their own alternatives to improving community oral health.

From U.S. News & World Report:

Two states, Alaska and Minnesota, currently allow dental therapists to provide oral care, according to the American Dental Association. Minnesota was the first to license dental therapists, and the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry has become the first college in the nation to offer a dental therapy track.

“We’re only in our second class,” said Dr. Patrick Lloyd, dean of Minnesota’s dentistry school, noting that 33 people applied for 10 slots in the most recent class. “We’re really proud to be the first dental school in the country to have an approved dental therapy program.”

Dental therapists receive two to three years of training in dental procedures. In Minnesota, they study alongside people who are training to become full-fledged dentists, Lloyd said.

“They use the same facilities and the same laboratories and are educated side-by-side to the same standards and level of competency,” the dean said. “The idea is that if they are educated together and learn together, they can better work together.

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