A growing body of research has found that dental therapists provide high-quality, cost-effective treatment and improve access to care for underserved populations.
© The Pew Charitable Trusts
Since 1923, more than 50 countries have improved access to dental care by allowing midlevel providers—frequently called dental therapists—to offer preventive and restorative treatment, primarily in the public sector, including in schools. A growing body of research has found that dental therapists provide high-quality, cost-effective treatment and improve access to care for underserved populations. This article explores the evolution of the dental therapy movement in the United States, where multiple barriers to oral health care have created persistent unmet needs. We examine developments since the 1940s that have led to the authorization of dental therapists in parts of Alaska and in Minnesota, Maine, and Vermont, along with the approval of national accreditation standards for dental therapy training programs by dental educators. We also show how dental therapists might fit within a health care system that is being transformed.
Jane Koppelman is research director for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ dental campaign.
America’s Overdose Crisis
Sign up for our five-email course explaining the overdose crisis in America, the state of treatment access, and ways to improve care
37 Scientists Pioneering the Future of Biomedical Research
States Expand the Use of Dental Therapy
Midlevel providers help increase access to care
5 Dental Therapy FAQs
Midlevel providers are helping dentists increase access to care.