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The Minnesota Story

This article was produced and provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Minnesota authorized dental therapists in 2009, but with more schooling and stricter oversight than other programs

Christy Jo Fogarty, the newly minted advanced dental therapist (ADT) at Children’s Dental Services in Minnesota, has been busy. Since December 2011, Fogarty has seen nearly 1,000 children who came to her for a dental checkup, cleaning, or fillings for their cavities.

They’re still coming.

Fogarty is not alone. She is one of 16 mid-level oral healthcare providers licensed in Minnesota since 2009, when the legislature voted to add mid-level dental providers to the dental workforce. Without Fogarty, many of her young patients likely would have had to wait many months for care.

At Children’s Dental Services, Fogarty quickly emerged as a top performer, saving the safety net clinic $1,200 a week while bringing in many more patients. In fact, the clinic has hired two additional ADTs and is picking up the full $35,000 tuition for two of its current hygienists to complete their ADT education.

Minnesota created a two-track licensing system for dental therapists (DTs), who must obtain bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and ADTs like Fogarty, who have already graduated from a registered dental hygienist program and must complete an additional accredited master’s degree. Tribal advocates note that Minnesota requires more schooling and stricter oversight than the established international model for dental therapists, differences that could diminish effectiveness and reduce career opportunities for tribal members.