The momentum in support of the introduction of new members to the dental team continued to build with the release of a report on dental therapists by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Kellogg released an assessment of international and U.S. experiences in training and deploying dental therapists who help fill gaps in care for underserved populations who struggle to obtain dental services.
The report addresses the potential impact of a two-year educated dental therapist model, as well as a three-year educated provider model that would incorporate dental hygiene and dental therapy.
Dental therapists focus their practices on the administration of restorative dental services and also provide a limited range of preventive services and offer patient nutrition and oral hygiene education.
Dental therapists work in collaboration with dentists and other health-care providers in the administration of care and have delivered safe, quality oral health care for decades.
The Kellogg report explored the training of dental therapists, a type of provider currently in practice in more than 50 countries internationally and in remote Alaskan villages. ADHA has acknowledged the need for new dental providers to deliver needed oral health-care services, particularly for the more than 108 million Americans who do not currently have dental insurance.
In addition, ADHA advocates for additional entry points into the oral health-care delivery system for population groups that cannot access services through the traditional private practice dental office. The association supports efforts toward the creation of new dental team members who have graduated from accredited educational programs, are licensed, and are able to provide care directly to the public.
ADHA applauds Kellogg for its exploration of the dental therapist model, including the dental therapist-dental hygienist model currently in place internationally.
American Dental Hygienists' Association President Lynn Ramer, LDH noted, "We are going to see increasing demand for new types of dental providers like those outlined in the Kellogg Foundation report. At a time when there is so much focus on access to health care in Washington, D.C., and across the nation, solutions such as those outlined in the report as well as looking at ways to use the existing dental hygiene workforce in an advanced practice capacity is a concept that can no longer be ignored."
In recognition of the dental access crisis plaguing the country, in 2004 ADHA began developing a new workforce model, the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner. The ADHP is a masters level educated provider envisioned to serve a role in oral health akin to that of a nurse practitioner in medicine. The ADHP will build on the existing dental hygiene education to develop providers able to administer an expanded scope of oral health services.
ADHPs will perform the traditional range of preventive services currently administered by dental hygienists as well as therapeutic, palliative, prescriptive, diagnostic, and minimally invasive restorative services. ADHPs will also be proficient in practice management, evidence-based practice, and public health programming and advocacy.
The new providers will work in collaboration with dentists, dental hygienists, and other health-care providers. The first masters level education program based on the ADHP competencies began at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn., in the fall of 2009.
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