Proposed by the dental school, this program is part of the overall movement to create a midlevel dental care provider in Minnesota. The state is currently considering legislation for the creation of a midlevel provider.
The University of Minnesota program consists of two alternative tracks: a 40-month Bachelor of Science in Dental Therapy and a 28-month Master in Dental Therapy.
The bachelor's program would be available to students with a high school diploma or equivalent, while the master's degree would require a bachelor's degree and a preprofessional core curriculum for acceptance. Graduates of the two programs would be qualified to do the same work. The master's program would primarily be designed for people making a career change, while the bachelor's program would appeal to people who have not yet settled into a career.
Patrick Lloyd, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, said the approval of the program is a momentous occasion for the school as it will be the first of its kind in the U.S. If the state Legislature approves the creation of a midlevel provider, the school will be ready to enroll its first batch, comprising about 10 students, in the fall of this year.
The program will train dental therapists to perform various dental procedures. While they will be able to perform preventative procedures without an onsite dentist, more complex procedures such as extractions on children, drilling, and filling will be done under the indirect supervision of an onsite dentist. Certain procedures will only be performed by dentists.
The midlevel provider will be able to increase the work capacity of a dental practice and allow more people access to care, according to Dr. Lloyd. ”They will increase the dental practice's capacity to see patients. There will be early intervention, which will prevent people from ending up in emergency rooms.”
In addition, the therapist would have a manageable debt with potential for employment at salary levels lower than dentists, which would reduce the cost of care, he said.
The University of Minnesota dental school is in a great position to start these programs because it already has the faculty, curriculum, and facilities in place to train these providers, he added. ”Our dental school is already accredited to teach the dental procedures they need to learn.”
The other program that aims to train midlevel providers in Minnesota is a Metropolitan State University 26-month Master of Science program that requires a bachelor's degree, an active dental hygiene license, a restorative functions certification, and 2,400 hours of clinical practice.
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