What is a Dental Therapist?

Dental therapists provide preventive and basic dental repair services, including cleanings, fillings and simple extractions under the general supervision of a dentist.

Dental therapists (also called dental health aide therapists in Alaska) provide preventive and basic dental repair services, including cleanings, fillings and simple extractions. Although they are part of the dental care system in more than 50 other countries, in the U.S. dental therapists are a new, mid-level dental provider model. They are trained to provide a limited number of routine dental services including:

  • Preventive care such as patient education, oral health outreach and screenings
  • Dental exams, x-rays and fluoride treatments
  • Cleanings and placement of sealants
  • Fillings and simple extractions

They work under the general supervision of a dentist, sometimes working in different locations, while communicating daily with their dentist by phone, fax and telemedicine technologies. As members of the dentist-led team, dental therapists work much in the same way nurse practitioners and physician assistants do to extend the reach of physicians, and allowing them to see more patients needing more advanced services.

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