Where Do Dental Therapists Practice?
Because dental therapists can provide basic dental care, they can work in a dental office or provide homebound care. But they usually practice where they're most needed, such as in the following communities.
Underserved Communities: Nearly 61 million people in the U.S. live in a dental Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). If you live in an HPSA, don't have dental insurance, or feel you don't have the money for dental care, you might seek the services of a dental therapist. Among the settings dental therapists practice are:
- Tribal health clinics
- Rural health clinics
- Public or free health clinics
- Underserved schools
- Correctional facilities
- Mobile health units
Community Facilities: If dental care is needed outside of the main dental office, dental therapists can be there. This can include practicing in nursing homes, veteran's hospitals, and school health offices.
The Pew Charitable Trusts notes that dental therapists practice in more than 50 countries and have done so for decades. But because the dental therapist role is a 21st-century profession in the U.S., most states haven't yet licensed the practice of dental therapy. Some states, though, are considering how these dental professionals can bridge the gap in care.
As of 2020, these states allow dental therapists to practice or have passed dental therapy laws or bills:
- Tribal areas in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho
- New Mexico