Dental Therapists Gaining Traction as Oral Health Providers

Dental therapists have gained recognition as oral health providers who can perform basic clinical dental treatment and preventive services in a variety of settings. They may work in private offices and at community-based clinics, often in rural areas.

As members of a team, dental therapists provide services such as restorative dental treatment, disease prevention and oral health promotion. They also advocate for the needs of clients, assist them in accessing care and refer them to other health professionals.

Currently, four states license dental therapists—Maine, Minnesota, Vermont and Washington. Alaska allows the practice of dental therapy on tribal lands, but does not license them under state law. Dental therapists were first introduced in Alaska to serve residents in remote rural areas and on tribal lands who were unable to access dental services. Dental therapists in Washington may only practice on tribal lands.

Minnesota was the first state to pass legislation to license dental therapists and currently authorizes two levels of dental therapist practice—dental therapist and advanced dental therapist. Nine states considered bills to authorize dental therapists as a provider in their 2015-2016 legislative sessions.

For more information on dental therapists and state laws, please visit the oral health providers page on this website.