AAPHD Panel Report on the Educational Plan
for the Two-Year Dental Therapist Programs
How was the panel selected? The panel was selected from a list of dental educators based upon their expertise, experience and knowledge of dental education. The panel selected was made up of well known and highly respected dental deans and dental faculty.
Why did AAPHD choose to conduct the panel? AAPHD has historically been interested in access to care issues. The Association had the expertise to provide leadership to the panel of academicians and the administrative infrastructure to oversee the grant programs from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. With the interest being demonstrated throughout the country in this alternative dental workforce position, AAPHD felt a model curriculum would help states and educational institutions develop training and licensure programs that would assure consistency of training and allow for a national accreditation program to be developed.
Who would benefit most from this report? States that are considering the addition of dental therapists to their dental workforce and institutions that are considering the establishment of educational programs for dental therapy would benefit from the work of the panel. The panel’s report provides a model curriculum for dental therapists and provides guidance that program directors and accreditation agencies will be able to use as a starting point. The work of the panel also provides a career path that will help other dental workers, such as dental hygienists, to advance in the field and build upon their skills.
How many states currently have career pathways and licensing fordental therapists? Currently, Minnesota and the Alaska Tribal Health Consortium offer pathways for dental therapy. Minnesota is the first state to embrace dental therapy as a way to reach underserved populations, and is currently engaged in licensure issues for the first graduates from two separate programs that have been established to educate dental therapists. The Alaska Tribal consortium has authority to certify dental health aide therapists under the Federal Community Health Aide Program Certification Board. Several other states are currently working to determine whether they should consider legislation to educate and deploy dental therapists
How many countries currently have career pathways and licensing for Dental Therapists? Alternative dental providers, known as dental therapists, are being used by approximately 55 countries to improve access to preventive and restorative dental services. In particular, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada have long-standing dental therapy programs. These countries have used dental therapists to staff school and community-based dental programs. These programs are aimed at improving access to dental services for children and other underserved populations, such as those in rural areas. Since the mid-1990s, three of the four countries—New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia—have combined their dental therapy and dental hygiene training programs.
This panel is comprised of high-level academics. How do we know that their findings would make sense for practicing dentists? The panel and the AAPHD are interested in the dental therapy model as a way to extend care to underserved communities. There are over 4,000 designated Federal Dental Shortage Areas. It has been demonstrated in other countries that by deploying dental therapists under the general supervision of dentists, underserved populations in school-based programs and in remote communities can be reached effectively.
How would dental therapists be accredited, and how would you assure that the accreditation process is identical from state to state? The Accreditation Report written by Dr. Sherril Gelmon suggests that a national accrediting agency is the best way to assure the public that educational programs for dental therapists would meet basic standards. The report reviews the manner in which accrediting agencies are recognized and provides guidance on possible ways to accredit dental therapy programs.
When will the entire set of papers from the report be available, and who has access to them? The entire set of papers from the Panel’s work is available on the AAPHD website at http://www.aaphd.org on the link for the Journal of Public Health Dentistry. The on-line manuscripts are available, at no charge, for one year via this site. The June 2011 issue of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry (Volume 71,S2) contains manuscripts of work of the panel.
If this is such a good idea, why haven’t other dental and educational organizations previously recommended this? The establishment of dental therapists in the workforce has been controversial in the United States. While many other countries utilize dental therapists under the supervision of dentists, several national and state dental organizations have for various reasons not endorsed the model for use in the United States. However, there are several states in which consumer groups and other community groups view dental therapy as a safe and effective way to bring dental care to the underserved.
What is AAPHD’s position on dental therapists? AAPHD is supportive of ideas to expand “Access to Care” and that includes expanded workforce models that are demonstrated and evaluated. Formally, AAPHD membership adopted a resolution in 2005 to support innovative demonstration projects (click here to see the formal position in its entirety). This includes supporting the ADA and ADHA models for workforce expansion. Regardless of the model adopted, AAPHD wants there to be a consistency in training and that training programs be accredited. Because of the interest surrounding dental therapists, AAPHD took on the project to develop a model curriculum for training.