Dental therapy is the wave of the future, offering patients additional access to dental treatment, using a more cost-effective solution to many common dental issues. Dental therapists operate as middlemen between dentists and dental hygienists, offering many of the services usually provided by dentists, but often at a fraction of the cost. The program was introduced in Minnesota to help reach the rural areas of the state where people cannot access dentists easily due to distant locations and unaffordable fees.
- Oral assessments
- Scaling and polishing
- Providing dental education to patients
- Taking x-rays
While these duties are typically performed by dental hygienists in this country, there are other jobs performed by dental therapists in England as well, including:
- Performing routine restorations
- Extracting teeth
- Placing pre-formed crowns
- Providing emergency replacement crowns
- Treating patients under sedation with the direct supervision of a dentist
According to the article in the North County Times, dental therapists in Minnesota will be able to:
- Drill cavities
- Extract baby teeth
- Remove stitches
- Cap nerves
More complex procedures and diagnostics will still be left to the dentists in the offices where dental therapists work.
While many professional associations, including the American Dental Association, remain firm in their opposition to the incorporation of dental therapists into dental offices, non-profit clinics are excited about the prospect of broadening their services to a wider spectrum of patients. Dr. Michael Helgeson, who runs the non-profit Apple Tree Dental clinic network, told the North County Times that he is anxious to provide more affordable services to patients. Dr. Helgeson estimates that each dental therapist Apple Tree Dental hires will save the clinic about $50,000 per year, while maintaining the same level of service.