American Dental Therapy Association Hosts Inaugural Conference

On October 5-7, 2023, the American Dental Therapy Association (ADTA) held its inaugural Annual Conference, Dental Therapy: Unity for Oral Health Innovation in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Over 100 individuals nationwide attended the event, including students, dental therapists, dentists, hygienists, medical and oral health care practitioners, Tribal members, citizens, and politicians interested in learning more about dental therapy.

In partnership with the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board and Native Oral Health Network, the ADTA began its conference with Native American leader and activist Brian Cladoosby. As former Chairman of the Swinomish Tribal Community from 1997 to 2020, Cladoosby has been a tireless advocate for bringing dental therapy not only to his community and Indian Country but to all communities in need across Washington. 

Following Cladoosby’s presentation, a panel discussion ensued with Dr. Robert Crittenden, a general practitioner with Community Dental Centers in Oklahoma City; Angela Johnson, a dental therapist with the Lummi Nation in Washington; Dr. Miranda Davis, director of the Dental Health Aide Program with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board; Terri Parton president of the Wichita and affiliated tribes in Oklahoma; and moderator Bruce Pratt a policy analyst with the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board.

Friday’s keynote address featured Dr. Lisa Simon, a physician, dentist, health services researcher, and incoming faculty member in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Simon described evidence to advance oral health care teams utilizing dental therapists, medical professionals, and others in the care of patients.

Program highlights included an Oklahoma Session with Terrisa Singleton, director of the Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation; Dr. Jana Winfree, Oklahoma’s State Dental Director since 2008; and moderator Julie Seward, a registered dental hygienist and Oral Health Programs Manager for the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board. With the help of the Arcora Foundation, the ADTA’s continuing education sponsor, attendees had an opportunity to earn up to 14.5 continuing education credits for programs that explored dental therapy programs throughout the United States, including the economic impacts of dental therapy programs, how to integrate dental therapists into existing oral health care teams effectively, the importance of civic engagement to improve health equity, myths about dental therapy, and practices and applications that support minimally invasive dentistry.

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health provided scholarships to current students and recent
graduates, including Raelene Cabrera, a dual degree student with the University of Minnesota; Kaci Theurer, a dental therapy student with the Minnesota State University – Mankato; Metropolitan State University graduates Desiree Bowie, Irene Karras, and Chee Lor; and Pacific University of Oregon graduates Kristen Gallaway and Mónica Sarmiento.

Annual Conference sponsors included the Arcora Foundation, CareQuest Institute of Oral Health, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Southern Plains Tribal Health Board and the Native Oral Health Network, Delta Dental of Oklahoma Foundation, National Indian Health Board Tribal Oral Health Initiative, My Community Dental Centers, Health & Wellness Center of Oklahoma, Elevate Oral Health Care, Michigan Primary Care Association, Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, and Heluna Health.

The ADTA will host a Virtual Annual Conference beginning December 2023 and continuing through March 2024. Virtual offerings will include live broadcasts on specific days and times, including Q&As with the presenters. For those unable to attend the live broadcasts, on-demand recordings will be available in the ADTA’s new Learning Management System.

Individuals who wish to support the dental therapy profession can join the ADTA by visiting Here, you can sign up to receive the ADTA’s monthly e-newsletter, view upcoming events, and learn about dental therapy education programs and resources highlighting dental therapy benefits both in the U.S. and globally.

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