Co-chaired by Community Catalyst, the National Indian Health Board and the National Coalition of Dentists for Health Equity, the National Partnership for Dental Therapy seeks to elevate the visibility and broad support for dental therapists as an evidence-based way to improve access to oral health. Our primary focus is improving access to dental care to communities that need it most. Where you live and how much money you have shouldn’t determine your access to dental care. But, this is exactly the case for tens of millions of Americans, with the burden falling heaviest on people of color, Tribal communities, seniors, low-income and rural Americans.
Dental therapists have worked around the world for almost a century and in the U.S. for over 15 years. The first U.S. dental therapy program was initiated by Alaska Native leaders to address a chronic lack of access to high-quality dental care in their communities. Dental therapists proved a highly effective means of not just improving access to dental care, but actually improving the oral health of communities. Today, dental therapists are authorized in some or all settings in Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Maine, New Mexico, Nevada, Vermont, and Washington, as well as through pilot programs in Oregon. Over a dozen other states and Tribal governments are exploring authorizing dental therapists.
We believe all communities should have dental therapy as an option. Dental therapists have been extensively studied and have been proven time and time again to deliver high-quality care and be a cost-effective means of expanding access to care. The Commission on Dental Accreditation has adopted accreditation standards for dental therapy education programs and in August 2020, granted accreditation to a dental therapy program (Ilisagvik College) for the first time. We look forward to the day when dental therapists are able to practice all throughout the U.S.