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Background on the dental therapist movement to aid your reporting

Michigan recently become the latest state to approve the use of midlevel dental providers – dental therapists – as part of an effort to expand oral health care to communities that have long lacked it.

With the new measure in place, Michigan joins Minnesota, Maine, Vermont and Arizona in approving the use of dental therapists statewide. The model also is in use on tribal lands in Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

The auxiliaries, often compared to nurse practitioners, have been in use in countries around the world for years, but are relatively new to the United States. They receive training in a range of dental services including drilling and filling teeth and work as members of dentist-headed teams.

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