Analysis

States Expand the Use of Dental Therapy

Access to care increases when dentists are authorized to hire midlevel providers

This page was updated on Jan. 19 and 27, 2017, Oct. 24, 2017, and Jan. 5, 2018, to reflect that Maryland, Connecticut, Florida, and Wisconsin, respectively, are actively exploring authorizing dental therapy, and that dental therapy legislation is no longer active in New Hampshire or Texas. It was also updated on May 16, 2017, to reflect that dental therapists are operating under pilot authority in Oregon.

Dental therapists—midlevel providers similar to physician assistants in medicine—deliver preventive and routine restorative care, such as filling cavities, placing temporary crowns, and extracting badly diseased or loose teeth. As states grapple with provider shortages, especially to serve vulnerable populations, a handful have acted to allow dentists to hire these practitioners, and many others are exploring the option. Dental therapists also practice in several tribal communities, where access to care can be especially limited.


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