A Workforce Strategy for Reducing Oral Health Disparities: Dental Therapists

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

This article seeks to chronicle how dental therapists are being used to bolster the supply of providers for the underserved and explore their potential to diversify the field of dentistry and improve public health.

Of the factors that contribute to persistent oral health disparities in the United States, an insufficient oral health workforce figures prominently.

A growing number of states are authorizing a midlevel dental provider (often called a dental therapist) to address this problem. Dental therapists work under the supervision of dentists to deliver routine preventive and restorative care, including preparing and filling cavities and performing extractions. They can serve all populations in 3 states, are caring for Native Americans in an additional 3 states under federal or state authority, and are being considered in about a dozen state houses.

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