Background: Expansion of the dental team may play a role in increasing access to oral health care. In 2009, Minnesota became the first state to formally license dental therapists (DTs). Methods: The authors surveyed DTs and advanced dental therapists (ADTs) in Minnesota to gain a better understanding of those who enter the profession and their motivation for doing so, as well as to solicit their opinions on the overall structure of dental therapy education and the regulatory aspects of the profession. Results: The response rate was 53.1%. DTs and ADTs were split on whether a dental hygiene degree should be required. Primary reasons for entering dental therapy included more autonomy and a larger scope of practice. Respondents expressed a desire for broadened prescribing rights. The median annual income was in the $81,000 through $90,000 bracket. Conclusions: Minnesota DTs and ADTs must practice in underserved communities. However, their ability to expand access to oral health care is affected by their licensure requirement, scope of practice, and prescription rights. Practical Implications: Policy makers considering dental therapy legislation must consider educational requirements and scope of practice when crafting state legislation. Broadening the scope of practice may allow for more impactful care for at-risk communities.
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© 2021 American Dental Association
- Dental therapy
- access to care
- dental workforce
- oral health disparities
- underserved populations