Dental Therapists: An Approach to Facilitating Access to Oral Health Care
Dr. Kavita Mathu-Muju is a pediatric dentist and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Mathu-Muju is also coauthor of 3 articles, which topics are: the Canadian experience using dental therapists to facilitate oral care for children; a global literature review of the use of dental therapists as members of the dental team; and a critique of the American experience with dental therapists.
The 3 articles are titled:
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Dental therapists are members of the oral health workforce in over 50 countries in the world typically caring for children in publicly funded school-based programs. A movement has developed in the United States to introduce dental therapists to the oral health workforce in an attempt to improve access to care and to reduce disparities in oral health.
While supporting the dental therapist movement, the critique that was published in 2017, challenged the use of dental therapists treating adults, versus focusing on children; the use of dental therapists in the private versus the public/not-for-profit sector; and requirements that a dental therapist must also be credentialed as a dental hygienist.
During its thirteen years of existence, the Saskatchewan’s school-based dental program staffed by dental therapists proved popular with parents and achieved significant success in providing necessary dental care for children. It was terminated in 1987 by the newly elected provincial Conservative government, which was not supportive of such social programs.
The evidence found in the global literature review indicates that dental therapists provide effective, quality, and safe care for children in an economical manner and are generally accepted both by the public and where their use is established, by the dental profession.
Full Interview (12.13″)