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Oregon School Receives Grant to Study Implementation of Dental Therapists

Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) to study the training and development of dental therapists. While Oregon’s dental practice act does not yet allow dental therapists to practice, a 2011 law enables pilot projects to be implemented under the Oregon Health Authority.

The college has partnered with the Oregon Oral Health Coalition—a nonprofit advocacy group. Together they plan to apply in March 2017 for approval of a pilot dental therapy teaching unit at Lane Community College. Through the funding provided by the WKKF grant, the partnership will study the ability of dental therapists to deliver oral care to Oregon’s underserved populations, including the uninsured, individuals covered by Medicare, and residents of rural communities with no or limited access to dental care.

Advocates in Oregon have pushed for a midlevel oral health practitioner since 2004, with a proposed bill for licensure receiving strong opposition from state and national dental associations. For now, proponents of the midlevel practitioner are depending on pilot projects to prove the value of dental therapists—which has already been well established in Alaska, Minnesota, Maine, and Vermont. The Lane Community College pilot project is expected to last 5 years. Results on the performance of dental therapists will be summarized, with an emphasis on patient safety, and then submitted to state lawmakers for review.

From Dimensions of Dental HygieneSeptember 2016;14(09):14. 

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