Ever wonder what a Dental Therapist is? Do they go around asking people how they feel about their teeth? Well our friends at the MN Department of Health, Office of Rural Health & Primary Care recently published a report on dental therapy in Minnesota.
So what is an Advanced Dental Therapist?
“Dental therapists are a small but growing profession. Dental therapists perform basic preventive services, drill and restore teeth for children and adults, and remove primary (baby) teeth under supervision by a Minnesota licensed dentist”. Minnesota was one of the first and only states in the country to pioneer this emerging profession.
“The first dental therapist education program opened in 2009, and as of January 2018, there were 79 dental therapists licensed in Minnesota.
A dental therapist can hold a dual license as a dental hygienist. Thirty-eight percent of dental therapists hold both licenses. Eighty-two percent of dental therapists have a master’s degree, and these therapists can also become certified as an advanced dental therapist (ADTs). After completing 2,000 hours of practice and passing a certification exam, ADTs can perform additional procedures and do all work without a dentist on site”.
“Dental therapists work in a variety of settings, most commonly solo and small group private practices, which is similar to other oral health professionals. Dental therapists also work in community based non-profits or clinics, community health centers or federally qualified health centers”.
HealthFinders is lucky enough to have Advanced Dental Therapist on staff at our Faribault Dental Clinic. Her name is Jenny Berge and she is very kind, gentle, and competent. Having Jenny on staff allows HealthFinders to see a greater number of patients since Jenny can take care of the basic restorative services like fillings, giving our volunteer Dentist, Dr. Jerry Appeldoorn, time to focus on more complicated dental services. Jenny holds a dual license as a dental hygienist, as well as advanced dental therapist, something held by only 38% of ADTs statewide, according to the survey. About half of ADTs in Minnesota work outside the metro area, and 35% work in community-health clinics like HealthFinders .
Dental therapy has transformed our ability to meet an extreme community need at HealthFinders. Hiring Jenny enabled us to grow by 6x the amount of complex treatment provided, and offer a full range of comprehensive dental services to patients in Rice County whose household income is 200% or less of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and who are either uninsured or covered by public insurance like Medical Assistance (MA). Individuals without insurance are charged on a minimal sliding fee scale basis, however no one will be turned away for inability to pay. HFC treats our patients holistically, by integrating dental with medical, wellness, and chronic disease care through our unique and innovative care coordination program.