The standards for dental therapists’ training and education are set by CODA, the same agency that accredits dental schools.

Dental therapy clinical training and education programs are set by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), the same agency that accredits all dental training and education programs.

CODA requires dental therapists to have at least 3 academic years of study. Three academic years to learn roughly 80 procedures. Dental school is 4 years of training. Four years to learn over 430 procedures. Dental therapists are well trained to perform the procedures allowed within their limited scope.

  • Dental therapists are part of a dental team, working with dentists, dental hygienists, and part of the dental team, with dental assistants and hygienists
  • Dental therapists help dentist be more versatile, expand the reach of their practice, and see different kinds of patients at the same time OR
    • Dental therapists can perform many of the most commonly needed routine procedures. This frees up dentists to work with patients who have more complex needs and on the more complicated procedures.
  • Dental therapists receive rigorous classroom and clinical training

What common dental proceedures can dental therapists perform?

Read about what a dental therapist is and does in this “day in the life” profile of Jodi Becker, a dental therapist serving rural Minnesota.

This Dental Therapist Is Filling a Gap in U.S. Health Care

Story by Carol Kaufmann July 28, 2017 Features

She’s a health care provider who travels, an educator who listens, and a comfort to children who’ve never seen a dentist. She’s also a pain reliever, a problem solver, and even, it can seem, a miracle worker.

The many roles Jodi Becker plays are all part of her job as an advanced dental therapist. Most weeks, she can be found packing her portable equipment and hitting the road to treat the many people in rural and suburban Minnesota who either can’t find a dentist to treat them or can’t travel to an office to receive care.

Dental therapists are filling a gaping hole in American dental care, and Pew is working to increase their numbers around the country. States such as Minnesota have authorized the midlevel providers—akin to physician assistants—to provide routine prevention and treatment services, such as filling cavities and placing temporary crowns. Dental therapists can work in a range of settings—public clinics, community health centers, private practices, nursing homes, and schools. In addition to Minnesota, dental therapists have been authorized in Vermont, Maine, and in Native tribal communities in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. But more than 53 million people in the United States still live in areas with dentist shortages. Access to care is also limited for the more than 50 million children and adults who rely on Medicaid. And only about one-third of U.S. dentists accept public insurance.


Trisha Patton (Yup’ik) - Dental Health Aide Therapist Instructor Practitioner

Trisha grew up in Napakiak, a rural village of 350 people on the Kuskokwim River in southwestern Alaska. Aware of the lack of resources and access to health care in her home village, Trisha strived to address these challenges for the communities surrounding Bethel, Alaska. Upon completion of the Dental Health Aide Therapist Training Program, Trisha began her career with the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation as a DHAT for 4 years. She currently works for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium as an instructor practitioner at the DHAT training site in Bethel.

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