Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

New Dental Workforce: Increasing Access to Oral Health Care

What is a Licensed Dental Practitioner (a.k.a. Dental Therapist or midlevel dental provider)?

Licensed Dental Practitioners are members of a dental care team, much like nurse practitioners and physician assistants are members of a medical care team.

Licensed Dental Practitioners are trained professionals who work with their supervising dentist to provide preventive and routine dental services.

Are these providers new?

While new to the U.S., midlevel dental providers (dental auxiliaries) have a 90-year history in more than 50 countries. Similar providers are already working in Alaska and Minnesota to extend much needed care into rural and underserved communities.

Does this create a two-tiered system of care?

No. These are highly trained professionals that will work under the supervision of a Washington state licensed dentist. This model of provider has a long history of successfully increasing access to high quality dental care.

These providers are trained to provide some of the most urgently needed services in areas where they are needed most. They are also trained to know when to refer a patient to their supervising dentist.

What is the difference between a Licensed Dental Practitioner (LDP) and the Licensed Dental Hygiene Practitioner (LDHP)?

In Washington, the new workforce proposal adds a new member of the dental care team and capitalizes on the current oral health care workforce by including multiple options for training. The Licensed Dental Practitioner goes through more than 3,000 hours of training, or what is equivalent to an associate’s degree. 

The Licensed Dental Hygiene Practitioner is trained to do the same procedures as the LDP but also has a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.

What kind of training do these providers receive?

The training programs for these providers include intensive, hands-on experience to master their scope of practice. Licensed Dental Practitioners (LDP) will undergo over 3,100 hours of intensive training before completing a minimum 400 hour preceptorship with their supervising dentist before starting practice. '

Licensed Dental Hygiene Practitioners (LDHP) will have a baccalaureate in dental hygiene as well as 12 months of post-baccalaureate training beyond their dental hygiene degree. LDHPs complete an additional 250 hours of clinical work with their supervising dentist before starting practice.

Similar providers have been working safely in Alaska for 7 years with the program and training expertise housed in the University of Washington MEDEX program.

Is this provider safe?

Similar dental practitioners have been extending care in more than 50 countries for over 90 years. Multiple bodies of research show they provide safe, high-quality care. There is no evidence to the contrary. In fact because the mid-level providers only do a specific number of dental procedures, their work has been shown to be equal to that of their supervising dentist.

For more information about Children's Alliance efforts to increase oral health access, please contact Tera Bianchi, Oral Health Access Project Manager, at (206) 324-0340 ext. 28.

Download a PDF version of this fact sheet.