Dental therapists: a global perspective

Int Dent J. 2008 Apr;58(2):61-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1875-595x.2008.tb00177.x.


In 1921, New Zealand began training school dental nurses, subsequently deploying them throughout the country in school-based clinics providing basic dental care for children. The concept of training dental nurses, later to be designated dental therapists, was adopted by other countries as a means of improving access to care, particularly for children. This paper profiles six countries that utilise dental therapists, with a description of the training that therapists receive in these countries, and the context in which they practice. Based on available demographic information, it also updates the number of dental therapists practising globally, as well as the countries in which they practice. In several countries, dental therapy is now being integrated with dental hygiene in training and practice to create a new type of professional complementary to a dentist. Increasingly, dental therapists are permitted to treat adults as well as children. The paper also describes the status of a current initiative to introduce dental therapy to the United States. It concludes by suggesting that dental therapists can become valued members of the dental team throughout the world, helping to improve access to care and reducing existing disparities in oral health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alaska
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Dental Auxiliaries / education
  • Dental Auxiliaries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dental Care for Children
  • Dentistry
  • Humans
  • Malaysia
  • New Zealand
  • Tanzania
  • United Kingdom
  • Workforce