Dental Therapist: A Career and Why It’s Important?

By | December 22, 2023

Many dental therapists can be found working in clinics. They may travel into rural and isolated areas that are hard pressed to find local dentistry services. Dental therapists can usually perform many of the same procedures as dentists, though some states require therapists to be supervised by dentists when performing such tasks as pulling deciduous teeth and removing stitches.

What is a Dental Therapist?

Dental therapists are dentists who do not take medical exams before being licensed to practice as a dentist in a clinic. These dentists can perform the same procedures as a dentist, yet they are not registered to practice independently of dentists and do not take medical exams. They are also not regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services, and a report released by the National Academy of Sciences claims that the majority of dental therapists are certified for dental hygiene and have less than a 2 year experience working in dentistry. In fact, the American Dental Association disputes the existence of dental therapists in the first place.

Many states require dental therapists to be supervised by dentists for the most part.


Why is it important to have dental therapists?

In the U.S., dental therapy has been in the spotlight since November 2015 when the American Dental Association (ADA) issued new regulations making it so that dental therapists were required to get a board certification in dental therapy.

Many of us have had dental problems that we never thought we would need to see a dentist about, but I suspect that most of us have heard of dental hygiene before. Does your dental hygiene at home consist of good brushing, flossing, and rinsing? If you answer “No,” then you are a potential candidate for dental therapy. If you are, you may be interested in the future career of dental therapist.

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Why are dental therapists needed?

Dental therapists help improve access to dental care.

How do you Become a Dental Therapist?

The ADA states that therapists need to have a master’s degree in dental hygiene, though that is often accredited through a dental therapy program that takes two to three years to complete. There is also some dispute as to whether a dental therapist can have a master’s degree and still work in private practice.

Many state dental boards are moving toward allowing therapists to take additional course work, which would allow them to have a bachelor’s degree and perform procedures they are not currently legally permitted to perform. If the therapy program does not allow this, therapists must take courses and earn additional certificates to be able to work in private practice.

Why Would you Want to be a Dental Therapist?

If you enjoy having a hands-on approach to your job and have had previous experience working with patients, dental therapists can be a great choice for you. Many dental therapists do not attend dental school. They typically have some dental degree, but many have dental hygiene degrees or a degree in physical therapy. Other job prospects for dental therapists include research, nursing, dental assisting, and anesthesia.

It is not necessary for you to work in a clinic to work as a dental therapist. There are some opportunities to work in clinics, especially if your dental health degree does not cover dental therapy or you are willing to pursue additional training.

Dental Therapist Salary

A dental therapist’s hourly rate can be substantially lower than that of a general dentist. Because dental therapists are often required to attend school and obtain continuing education in order to work, their salary can sometimes be low. As with all medical professionals, dental therapists can earn additional income through other sources. However, due to the lower hourly rate, it is usually more lucrative for therapists to pursue additional training.

Technical Specialist: A Career in Healthcare

While most people may know a dental hygienist as a dental hygienist, most do not realize that there are more than 7,000 other technical specialists who work in various areas of healthcare.

Technical specialists work in the medical and dental fields in a wide variety of positions.

How to Become a Dental Therapist

The Ministry of Health, Rwanda established a program in 2000 to establish dental therapists in Rwanda. The program is a joint effort of the Ministry of Health, Rwanda and local Rwandan organizations. A dental therapy course was developed by the South African Dental Association (SADC), National Dental Association of Rwanda (NAR) and the Rwandan Ministry of Health. The dental therapy program was then added to the new dental clinic program in Rwanda and subsequently became a part of the new National Dental Program in Rwanda in 2005.

To get a better sense of what it is to work in a dental clinic, we spoke with Stephanie Szafranski, who has worked as a dental therapist for the past three years.


Our dental therapists value our collaboration with Florida Dental Assoc. as a potential means of opening doors of inclusion and increase awareness in other counties.

The following information may be helpful when considering a career as a dental therapist. Keep in mind that some jurisdictions will require therapy practitioners to complete additional schooling prior to commencing their career.

Our Medicaid program has dental therapists in place, meaning that you can establish your dental practice and have a partnership with Medicaid in just a few months.

The ADA training program is comprehensive and the program can help dental therapists build a solid foundation of experience, knowledge, and certification.


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