Dental school faculty perceptions of and attitudes toward the new dental therapy model

J Dent Educ. 2012 Apr;76(4):383-94.


The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry launched its new dental therapy program in September 2009 after the Minnesota state legislature had authorized the training and practice of a dental therapist in May of the same year. The creation of this mid-level dental provider is seen as a workforce solution to help address the problem of access to dental care experienced by some members of our society. However, there is a lack of consensus and even controversy in organized dentistry about dental therapy, one of the mid-level provider models. This study explored the attitudes and perceptions of dental school faculty members who have been tasked to prepare these new dental therapists to do their work. Focus groups were conducted with a randomly selected group of faculty members, the results of which were used to develop a survey of faculty members in all departments of the school. A total of 151 faculty members responded to the survey: 68 percent of these respondents were fifty-one years of age or older; 79 percent were male; and 39 percent were full-time and 61 percent part-time. Fifty-four percent were clinical faculty members, and the rest taught in the preclinical courses and basic sciences. The study found that these dental faculty members believe dentists have a personal responsibility in the care of the underserved but do not agree that the dental therapists are part of the solution to improve access. There was a clear divide between the part-time faculty members, who practice outside the institution, and the full-time educators with regard to the role of dental therapists. However, there was an overall consensus that dental faculty members have a commitment and responsibility to educate future dental therapists regardless of their personal position. This is encouraging to dental therapy students, who can be assured that they will receive the education they need to prepare them to practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Consensus
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Dental Auxiliaries / education*
  • Dental Care / ethics
  • Dental Hygienists / education
  • Dentists / ethics
  • Education, Dental
  • Employment
  • Ethics, Dental
  • Faculty, Dental*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota
  • Natural Science Disciplines / education
  • Patient Care Team
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Schools, Dental
  • Sex Factors
  • Teaching
  • Workforce