The School of Dentistry is educating a new member of the dental team called a dental therapist. Authorized by the legislature to help address access-to-care challenges faced by many communities throughout the state, dental therapists will be licensed to perform some to the same dental procedures now provided only by dentists.
As Minnesota’s only dental school, the School of Dentistry took a leading role in working with the state to help define the scope of practice and level of supervision required for this new member of the dental team. And, as the only school in the state already accredited to teach dentistry procedures, the School of Dentistry also is taking a leading role in educating dental therapists by using the same curriculum, faculty, and facilities currently used to educate dentists and dental hygienists.
This fall a class of nine dental therapy students began attending the School of Dentistry. Students are being educated to restore the teeth of both children and adults in a clinical setting with a dentist on-site to offer supervision.
The expectation is that dental therapists will enhance the capacity of the existing network of dental clinics around Minnesota to see more patients, and to do so in a cost-effective manner.
Minnesota is the first state to authorize licensure of dental therapists for the general public, and the University will graduate its first class of dental therapy students in 2011. Many other states are considering licensing dental therapists to improve access to dental care. So in many respects, all eyes are on Minnesota and the School of Dentistry.