Pew vs. Kellogg

Both the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Kellogg Foundation are supportive of expanding the use of mid-level dental providers, dental therapists, in the United States.

Two years

As far as I can tell, both Pew and Kellogg agree on recommendations for an educational program of approximately two years for a dental therapist. The details of the curriculum may vary depending on where the student receives their training, but it often consists of one year of mainly didactic education combined with a seconded year of primarily clinical instruction and supervised student practice.  There may also be a requirement for some limited ongoing supervision/review of post-graduation clinical performance to enable a dental therapist to obtain and renew a license to practice.


I believe that Pew and Kellogg generally agree on the educational “requirements,” however they seem to disagree on the “pre-requirements.”  Again, as far as I can tell, Pew is supportive of allowing dental therapists to begin their training after obtaining  a High School Diploma (or GED), study for an additional two years and receive a diploma in Dental Therapy. However, Kellogg is supportive of requiring dental therapists to first receive a Bachelor’s Degree (college education) then train for two years to receive Master’s Degree in Dental Therapy.

Why would anyone want to be a Master’s Degree Dental Therapist (MS)?

Most dentists in the United States receive a High School Diploma, get a Bachelor’s Degree and then attend a dental school for four years (twelve years total). They can then practice all aspects of dentistry without restriction.  A dental therapist with a Master’s Degree would need to spend ten years in school and would likely be limited in practice to simple fillings and uncomplicated extractions.  Does this make economic sense (time and tuition) for the MS dental therapists?

Most dental hygienists (allowed to clean and often allowed to apply sealants to teeth) in the United States are allowed to practice after two years of hygiene training where they receive an Associate’s Degree (preceded by a High School Diploma).

As we look for ways to improve access to dental care, does a Master’s Degree in Dental Therapy make sense, or are Dental Therapy “certificates” appropriate?  Please comment in the forums.


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