Could Oregon start licensing dental therapists soon?
By Peter Korn
April 4, 2013
Children’s Dental Services, a Minneapolis nonprofit that provides dental care to uninsured and low-income people throughout Minnesota, was able to serve 1,000 additional patients last year — kids and pregnant women who in previous years would not have had dental care at all.
That was possible, according to Executive Director Sarah Wovcha, because she was able to hire four dental therapists to supplement the work of her staff dentists. At $45 per hour she can hire more dental therapists than $75 per hour dentists, and more patients get seen.
Dental therapists are similar to nurse practitioners — able to do much of, but not all, the primary care work dentists or physicians do. But they aren’t licensed yet in Oregon. And those pushing for dental therapists in Oregon aren’t going to get help from the Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry, which has decided not to participate in training Oregon dental therapists in programs authorized by the Oregon Legislature last year.
Not that there isn’t need.