Some U.S. dental schools are offering a new program in dental therapy, which will provide students with the same basic training that fully accredited oral professionals receive, according to HealthDay News.
Practices that utilize dental therapists may be able to provide care to patients at a lower cost and reduce the amount of time that hygienists and doctors spend treating individuals with non-surgical needs, the news source noted.
HealthDay reported that dental therapists can become licensed in Minnesota and Alaska, where they are able to perform cleanings, screenings for oral cancer and cavity-filling procedures.
Individuals living in these communities may be able to obtain better access to oral care with the implementation of these new employees.
According to the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), 40 percent of Americans do not have access to sufficient dental care, primarily due to financial constraints. A lack of professional availability also causes more than 31 million people nationwide to suffer from neglected oral health. The organization refers to these locations as "dental shortage areas," where there is less than one dental provider per 5,000 residents.
The rising numbers of individuals who are participating in three-year programs to become dental therapists may help reduce the gap in dental care provision in underprivileged communities.
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