Promoting Oral Health Equity Throughout the US
At that time, dental therapy was just gaining prominence in the United States, and there was much speculation about its future. Would it last? Would it be effective? Would it be accepted as mainstream?
The issue of Dimensions of Dental Hygiene marks the eighth edition of our annual supplement Perspectives on the Midlevel Practitioner. Initially launched in 2014, it was developed to inform our readers about the new and various dental midlevel provider roles that were either recently recognized or on the horizon. At that time, dental therapy was just gaining prominence in the United States, and there was much speculation about its future. Would it last? Would it be effective? Would it be accepted as mainstream? Even though dental therapy was already instituted in other countries, the concept was groundbreaking in the US, and while dental therapy had its fans, it also had detractors. As you may recall, many took a “wait and see” attitude on whether this novel type of practitioner would survive or fail. Today, it’s safe to say that dental therapists have had a positive and lasting impact on the public’s oral health. And the future implications are significant. This edition of Perspectives takes a closer look at these important issues:
- Straightforward, factual statistics in support of dental therapy and its impact
- A look back at the past 10 years of Minnesota’s dental therapy training program
- A discussion of dental therapy in the state of Oregon
- An update on license portability for dental hygienists
IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE THE LOFTY GOAL OF ORAL HEALTH EQUITY, MIDLEVEL PRACTITIONERS WILL PLAY AN INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT ROLE GOING FORWARD.
While this issue provides insight on the importance of midlevel practitioners and expanding scope of practice for dental hygienists, there is so much more to cover! Look for Guest Editorials in the next three issues to provide a glimpse into a typical day in the life of a dental health aide therapist and what it’s like to provide services to underserved Native Americans, a closer look at dental therapy education, and the important role of doctoral training in dental hygiene.
Midlevel practitioners fill an important need by reaching those who lack access to oral healthcare providers, most notably dentists. Often, those individuals are most vulnerable to oral diseases because of socioeconomic and other issues that complicate their lives and their health. In order to achieve the lofty goal of oral health equity, midlevel practitioners will play an increasingly important role going forward. And we thank them!
Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. November 2021;19(11)6.