Lane Community College is in the vanguard of a movement to create a new kind of dental worker for Oregon inner cities, rural areas, migrant communities and tribal lands, where dental treatment is often scarce.
The college recently received a $100,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to study the training and deploying of dental care providers called “dental therapists.”
With supervision by a dentist, dental therapists could numb, drill and fill after a three-year degree program, which is five years fewer than dentists typically achieve.
Essentially, the position of dental therapist falls halfway between the jobs of a dental hygienist and a dentist.
Alaska, Minnesota, Maine and Vermont all have authorized some version of a dental therapist.
But the mainstream dentistry profession largely opposes the practice, saying drilling and related work require a high level of training and skill that only dentists attain.
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