Research and Analysis

Research and Analysis

Challenges in accessing dental care in Arizona

Midlevel providers deliver quality dental care and improve access

Midlevel dental practitioners, known as dental therapists, have been providing preventive and basic restorative care in a variety of settings (including private practices, community health centers, schools, and nursing homes) in the United States since 2004, when they began serving native communities in Alaska. They started working in Minnesota in 2011; Maine and Vermont authorized them in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

In Minnesota, the state Board of Dentistry and Department of Health reported that dental therapists provide safe, high-quality care in rural and underserved urban settings. Clinics employing them are expanding capacity and decreasing travel and wait times for patients. In Alaska, dental therapists have increased access to care for 40,000 people living in 81 rural communities.

Savings from the lower costs of dental therapists have allowed Minnesota dental practices to treat more Medicaid patients. One small private practice in rural Minnesota has hired four dental therapists in the past four years and expanded its total staffing from eight to 20 people. Since 2012, the office has increased productivity by $776,572 and revenue by $488,788.