Dental clinics in Minnesota that employed dental therapists saw more patients, provided more services, and increased gross revenues after integrating these midlevel providers into their teams, according to recently released research.
The quantitative study, conducted by researchers at the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Albany School of Public Health in New York, was based on data from more than 76,000 patients who had over 250,000 visits at two Apple Tree Dental clinics between 2009 and 2019. The study analyzed patient data to compare the number of dental services provided, number of daily patient visits, and gross revenues generated before and after dental therapists started serving clinic patients.
Dental therapists provide preventive and routine restorative care, such as filling cavities and placing temporary crowns. In 2009, Minnesota became the first state in the U.S. to enact legislation authorizing their practice. Research shows these midlevel providers can help increase access to dental care for underserved communities.
Apple Tree has been a nonprofit community dental provider for 35 years, and currently operates seven clinics in urban and rural regions of Minnesota. About 80% of its patients are low-income or insured by Medicaid. The organization was one of Minnesota’s first to employ dental therapists in 2011 and hired its first advanced dental therapists, who have additional education and training to