The dental therapist movement in the United States: A critique of current trends

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Abstract

Dental therapists are members of the oral health workforce in over 50 countries in the world typically caring for children in publically funded school-based programs. A movement has developed in the United States to introduce dental therapists to the oral health workforce in an attempt to improve access to care and to reduce disparities in oral health. This article critiques trends in the United States movement in the context of the history and success of dental therapists practicing internationally. While supporting the dental therapist movement, we challenge: a) the use of dental therapists treating adults, versus focusing on children; b) the use of dental therapists in the private versus the public/not-for-profit sector; and c) requirements that a dental therapist must also be credentialed as a dental hygienist.

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