Developing and Deploying a New Member of the Dental Team: A Pediatric Oral Health Therapist

Authors

  • David A. Nash DMD, MS, EdD

    Corresponding author
    1. David A. Nash, William R. Willard Professor of Dental Education, Division of Pediatric Dentistry, College of Dentistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536. E-mail: danash@email.ukv.edu. Reprints will not be available.
      Send correspondence to David A. Nash, William R. Willard Professor of Dental Education, Division of Pediatric Dentistry, College of Dentistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536. E-mail: danash@email.ukv.edu. Reprints will not be available.
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Send correspondence to David A. Nash, William R. Willard Professor of Dental Education, Division of Pediatric Dentistry, College of Dentistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536. E-mail: danash@email.ukv.edu. Reprints will not be available.

Abstract

There are inadequate numbers of dentists able and willing to treat America's children, specifically children from low income and minority populations. This has led to the well-publicized disparities in oral health among children. In the early part of the 20th century New Zealand faced a significant problem with oral disease among its children and introduced a School Dental Service, staffed by allied dental professionals with two years' training in caring for the teeth of children, “school dental nurses.” A significant number of countries have adopted the model. This article reviews the history of attempts to develop such an approach in the United States. It advocates for the development and deployment of pediatric oral health therapists as a means of addressing the disparities problem that exists in America with such individuals being trained in children's dentistry in a two-year academic program. The article asserts that adding a pediatric oral health therapist to the dental team is one way in which the profession of dentistry can fulfill its moral obligation to care for the oral health of America's children and ensure that all children are treated justly. Recently, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry promulgated a strategic plan that endorsed such an approach.

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