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Dental Therapists


For decades, dental therapists have provided services to patients in more than 50 countries, but the profession has only existed in the United States since 2004. In that year, the state of Alaska allowed dental therapists who had been trained in dental therapy in New Zealand to work within its tribal areas, which had a shortage of dental professionals. In 2009, Minnesota became the first state to establish statewide licensure of dental therapists. During that same year, the University of Minnesota became the first dental school to educate dental therapists. Its first class graduated in 2011. The university currently offers a dual degree bachelor of science in dental hygiene and master of dental therapy program. It is one of only a few schools in the U.S. that offer degrees in dental therapy.

Twelve states (Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) currently authorize dental therapists to practice in some capacity. In the next few years, more state legislatures are expected to pass legislation to allow dental therapists to work under the supervision of dentists. It should be noted that most national and state dental societies oppose the licensing of dental therapists to perform restorative procedures such as tooth drilling and extraction because they believe dentists are the only dental professionals qualified to perform these procedures.

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