Working With Midlevel Providers: Dentists' Perspectives

Mid-level dental providers perform preventive care and routine restorative duties, such as filling cavities. Although they work in more than 50 countries, including Canada and Britain, Minnesota and Alaska are the two states in which mid-level dental providers are licensed to work as part of the dental team. In Minnesota, dental therapists work in a variety of settings. Two dentists who supervise these practitioners in Minnesota share their perspectives.

Dr. John Powers, who owns a private dental practice in the rural town of Montevideo, describes how a dental therapist is working—and helping families "get turned around in terms of their oral health." Minnesota passed a law in 2009 to expand the dental team by authorizing two types of dental therapists. These professionals are similar to the role played by physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners in the medical field. Dental therapists are required to spend at least 50 percent of their time treating patients whose income or insurance status creates difficulty finding dental care.

Dr. Shiraz Asif describes the positive impact a dental therapist has made at Family Dental Care, a community clinic in Minneapolis that primarily serves disadvantaged people. According to Dr. Asif, having a dental therapist on his team allows him to focus on more sophisticated procedures that only a dentist is trained to perform.

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