Disparities in dental health care that characterize poor populations are well known. Children suffer disproportionately and most severely from dental diseases. Many countries have school-based dental therapist programs to meet children’s primary oral health care needs.
Although dental therapists in the United States face opposition from national and state dental associations, many state governments are considering funding the training and deployment of dental therapists to care for underserved populations. Dental therapists care for American Indians/Alaska Natives in Alaska, and Minnesota became the first state to legislate dental therapist training.
Children should receive priority preference; therefore, the most effective and economical utilization of dental therapists will be as salaried employees in school-based programs, beginning in underserved rural areas and inner cities.