Dental Therapy in the News

Dental Therapy, A Building Block for Oral Health Care Teams

The ADTA introduces our treasurer, Mark Kobylinsky! Mark holds dual licenses in dental therapy and dental hygiene, with nine years as a dental hygienist and one year as a dental therapist. Mark received his dental therapy license from Oregon in November 2022 when it began issuing licenses. He is one of 13 licensed dental therapists currently working in the state.  Currently, Mark works at Willamette Dental, located in the heart of Southeast Portland, Oregon.

Mark has a unique experience with a dual license, integrating the roles of a hygienist and dental therapist. He differentiates these roles by explaining that while hygienists primarily focus on periodontal teeth cleanings and restoring teeth after the doctor's preparatory work, dental therapists train to perform dental drilling and fillings. Furthermore, dental therapists can diagnose patients, execute simple extractions, and provide treatment.

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Three Alaska Dental Health Aide Therapists Recognized for Exceptional Care

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) celebrated Community Health Aides, Behavioral Health Aides, and Dental Health Aide Therapists (DHATs) at its annual awards ceremony on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, in Anchorage, AK. Three awards recognized dental health aides: The Rising Star, Shining Star, and Outstanding Accomplishment Awards.

The Rising Star and Shining Star Awards recognize employees who demonstrate excellence by continuously delivering exceptional patient care, have somehow improved the healthcare delivery system, enhanced the level of care in their community, and demonstrated balance in their work and professional lives. This year's Rising Star is Jerilyn Glenn, a DHAT with less than five years of experience who works with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Emmonak, AK. Renee Cheemuk, a DHAT with over five years of experience, was awarded the Shining Star for her work with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in St. Mary, AK.

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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. 

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Amy’s Journey: Transforming Oral Health in Oregon through Dental Therapy Advocacy and Academia

The profession of dental therapy is a growing and evolving field, with many passionate professionals dedicated to improving oral health. One individual is Amy Coplen, whose journey from a dental background to academia and, ultimately, dental therapy advocacy has made her an inspiring oral health care professional in the Pacific Northwest. In a recent interview, Amy walked us through her journey and shared insights into the profession of dental therapy and academia and developing Pacific University's Dental Therapy Program.

Amy's connection to the dental industry began at home. Her parents, who met while serving in the military, worked as dental lab technicians. Her mother furthered her dental career by attending dental hygiene school. This upbringing sparked Amy's fascination with the field, leading her to work in a dental office with the ambition of becoming a dentist.

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Teledentistry for the Dental Therapist — The Top 3 Things You Need to Know

By Melissa Turner, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA, Co-founder, National Mobile & Teledentistry Conference

Welcome to the world of virtual care! In the last decade dentistry has experienced significant strides in innovation, business practices and technology — drastically changing how we think and practice. This especially rings true since the start of the pandemic. In the last 36 months we’ve seen an increase in business startups entering the space, the rise of countless new home care and in-office products, and a change in the mindset of our patients and team members. Individually, these changes have the ability to impact our daily lives as clinical healthcare providers in significant ways; collectively, these changes are creating an industry-wide paradigm-shift, changing dentistry before our very eyes.

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New Scholarship Opportunity Announced for Aspiring Dental Therapists in Michigan

Qualified candidates interested in pursuing education in dental therapy can now apply for a unique scholarship opportunity thanks to the Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA), the Delta Dental Foundation (DDF) and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund (Health Fund).

Dental therapy is a long-awaited oral health profession recently added to Michigan’s oral health workforce to improve access to care within dentist shortage areas. Dental therapists are licensed providers that work under the remote supervision of a dentist to provide services such oral health assessments, cleanings, basic restorations and some extractions.

For complete eligibility requirements and scholarship application, please visit the MPCA Dental Therapy Scholarship program webpage for more information.

MPCA chief executive officer Phillip Bergquist said: “Dental therapists will improve health centers’ ability to carry out their missions to improve access to care for Michigan’s most vulnerable populations.

“The MPCA Dental Therapy Scholarship program will support a new oral health career option for individuals who are driven to serve communities in dental health professional shortage areas,” he stated. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to support aspiring Michigan dental therapists through the scholarship program.”

“No Michigan college or university has an accredited dental therapy program yet,” added Holli Seabury, EdD, executive director of the DDF. “Until that happens, if we want dental therapy to succeed in Michigan, it’s on us to make it happen.”

The MPCA Dental Therapy Scholarship program will support the educational journeys of dental therapy students who plan to practice in Michigan upon graduation. These students will be recognized as trailblazers for Michigan’s dental therapy profession, and they will usher in a new model of accessible, high-quality care for systemically disadvantaged communities.

"Good oral health starts at home, and for the Health Fund that means strengthening the workforce in our own backyard,” says Laurie Solotorow, director of Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles, at the Health Fund. “We're proud to partner with the Delta Dental Foundation and MPCA to invest in dental therapists who want to serve their own communities and provide access to oral healthcare in underserved areas of the state."

Qualified candidates may apply for up to $15,000 for each semester they are enrolled in a U.S. dental therapy program and must practice in Michigan for up to 36 months upon graduation. Scholarship applications will open on April 17 and close on May 12, 2023.

MPCA advocates to influence and advance health policy in Lansing and Washington, D.C., foster collaboration among our 44 health centers and with external partners, and support health centers in the continuous pursuit of high-quality, patient-centered services. As a fierce voice for members, our vision is equitable and just healthcare for all. Visit us online for more information.

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund’s mission is to improve the health of Michigan residents, with special emphasis on the health and wellness of children and seniors, while reducing the cost of health care. Please visit the Health Fund website for more information.

The Delta Dental Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization established in 1980, which serves as the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina. DDF is dedicated to developing and enhancing partnerships and programs to improve oral and overall health and health equity. For more information, visit

From Dental Assistant to Dental Therapist, One Student’s Journey

Dana Obey is a dental therapy student at Skagit Valley College’s first dental therapy education cohort and is poised to become the first dental therapist to work in Michigan. She is a part of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Before her educational journey, she worked in retail for ten years to support her children. Dana wanted to make a stable career change and made the transition to working in dentistry. She was a dental assistant for 13 years, working for various private practices for doctors and dentists, and worked at the Health Department for three years. 

She became interested in dental therapy after hearing about free CE courses from the dental hygienists she worked with. During her time as a dental assistant, she mentored students on how to work with dental assistants and dentists. She inspired many students and taught them practical skills. Many of her colleagues encouraged her to attend dental school and further her education. Dr. William Pruden and Dr. William Ackerman, whom Dana worked with, recognized her potential and encouraged her to begin her education in dentistry. Dana is pursuing a career in dental therapy because she wants to be a mentor and role model for others and make a difference in her community. 

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Dental Therapy Bill HB 1678 Signed, Expanding Access to Dental Therapy in Washington State

“Dental therapy for Washingtonians is a reality because of the power built over 13 years by community, Tribal and state advocates to create accessible, equitable means of dental care.” – Emily Stewart (BOSTON, MA) – Community Catalyst joins partners Statewide Poverty Action Network and Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board in celebrating the bipartisan passage of legislation allowing more communities in Washington state to access routine, community-centered dental care through dental therapists. Washington joins a growing number of states broadly adopting dental therapy, a community-led and informed solution to care that addresses oral health inequities in underserved areas while also providing pathways to economic advancement within those communities.

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No Medicaid Cuts Sign-On Letter

Medicaid is a critical program in supporting the health and well-being of millions of families in America. About 230 organizations, including the ADTA and Families USA, submitted a letter to Congressional Leadership in support of Medicaid and to express our united opposition to any proposals to cut Medicaid funding as part of upcoming negotiations over the federal budget, debt limit, or any other legislative priorities.

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Washington State Senate Passes Dental Therapy Bill ESHB 1678

On Tuesday, April 11, 2023, the Washington State Senate announced the final vote supporting Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 1678. Sponsored by the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness, the bill passed the House on March 4, 2023, with 53 yeas, 42 nays. The bill proceeded to the Senate where it worked its way through a public hearing, reviews by the Rules Committee, and a final vote resulting in 30 yeas, 19 nays. To view a summary of the bill, including license requirements, the scope of practice, the practice plan contract, and other provisions, click here.

Bill highlights include:

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Forging New Territory

Four months after graduating with a bachelor’s in dental hygiene and a master’s in dental therapy, Claire Roesler moved from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Bangor, Maine, where she joined Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC) as its first dental therapist. As a result, Claire has the esteemed designation of being the first dental therapist to work in the State of Maine. The state adopted legislation in 2014 recognizing dental therapy as a profession; however, the legislation had to be amended in 2019 to allow dental therapists to practice.

Like all new paths being forged, there were certainly bumps along the way. Claire spent the first four months performing hygienist work while PCHC negotiated a collaborative management agreement with a clear scope of work to practice as a dental therapist. During her first year, Claire advocated extensively for dental therapy in Maine. 

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How is a dental therapist different from a dentist?

By Sarah Chagnon, ADTA President, Dental Therapist, Swinomish Dental Clinic 

Dental therapists can fill/restore any part of the tooth as long as the tooth does not need treatment to the nerve. We use all the same materials a dentist would use. 

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American Dental Therapy Association Joins National Partnership for Dental Therapy as Co-Chair


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Q&A with ADTA Board President, Sarah Chagnon

What sparked your interest in becoming a dental therapist?

I went in for a dental cleaning and check-up. I told the dentist I had just gotten my associate's degree and was accepted into nursing school. Dr. Dailey encouraged me to shadow a dental therapist who worked at the clinic and recommended that I consider dental therapy instead of nursing school. That night I went home and googled dental therapy and was fascinated by the concept of a mid-level provider. I called the clinic the next day, and job shadowed Daniel Kennedy, the first dental therapist from Alaska to work in Washington State. After watching him for 30 seconds, I knew dental therapy was what I wanted to do. Five months later, I packed up my entire house and took a five-day ferry to Alaska and became a student of the Alaska Dental Therapy Education Program.  

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The ADTA Celebrates Newly Licensed Board Members

The ADTA congratulates board members, Immediate Past President Kari Ann Kuntzelman, and Treasurer Mark Kobylinsky on becoming newly licensed dental therapists in the State of Oregon.

Kuntzelman, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, moved to Alaska in 2017 to attend the Alaska Dental Therapy Education Program (ADTEP). Upon graduating from the program, she returned home to her urban community in Portland, Oregon, to give back to her people, and join the efforts to end oral health inequity. In 2019, Kuntzelman graduated from the ADTEP Program and worked under Dental Pilot Project #100 in the State of Oregon at the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest (NARA) for two and a half years. In April 2022, she joined the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board as a Dental Health Aide Education Specialist, advocating for dental therapists and other levels of dental health aides. On January 5th, 2023, Kuntzelman became the 11th licensed dental therapist in the State of Oregon.

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Scholarship Opportunities for AI/AN Students

If you are an American Indian/Alaska Native student looking for scholarship opportunities, below is a list of some scholarships to consider for the next academic year. 

The Cobell Scholarship  

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New Resource for Scope of Practice Laws and Regulations by State

Check out this great interactive tool by the Oral Health Workforce Research Center to learn the details of each state's laws and regulations for dental therapy!

Letter from the President

Dear Dental Therapy Community,

I'm so happy to be writing to you today, as I catch my breath from the whirlwind of activity and accomplishments these past few months. We have come a long way and I wanted to provide an update as my term approaches its end and I pass the baton to Sarah Chagnon, the incoming 2023 Board President. 

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National Gathering of Dental Therapy Students Quarterly Meeting

On October 22nd, dental therapy students were invited to attend a National Gathering of Dental Therapy Students hosted by Dominic Comerate, Alaska Dental Therapist and Board member. We were also joined by special guest David Martin, representing the United Kingdom Dental Therapy Association. The quarterly student gatherings are a place for students to meet, talk to each other and receive support from practicing dental therapists.  Attendees left with these key takeaways:

  1. Know your scope of work for the state you are going to practice inside and out, as scopes vary from state to state right now.  

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ADTA Annual Meeting 2022

The ADTA hosted their Annual Meeting virtually on October 18th. For the first time in ADTA history, supporters outside of ADTA membership were invited to join the meeting! The conference featured presentations by Dr. Sarah Shoffstall-Cone, Director Ilisagvik College/ANTHC; Dr. Rachael Hogan, Director, Skagit Valley College; Professor Danae Seyffer, University of Minnesota, School of Dentistry, Division of Dental Therapy; HRSA representatives Shane Rogers, Designated Federal Official Division of Medicine and Dentistry Bureau of Health Workforce Health Resources and Services Administration and Dr. Jennifer Holtzman, Subject Matter Expert for the Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry (ACTPCMD); and updates on national, Tribal and state policies by Laura Brannon, Community Catalyst and Christina Peters, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. 

Participants also had the opportunity to register for CDE with Dr. Jeremy Horst, Director of Clinical Innovations, CareQuest; and Dr. Itai Jeffries; Manager, Paths (Re)Membered Project, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. We are grateful to our supporters, ARCORA Foundation and CareQuest Institute. 

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