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National Indian Health Board - Tribal Oral Health Initiative

Governor Kate Brown has signed H.B. 2528, allowing licensed dental therapists to practice across the state of Oregon, including in the state's Tribal communities.

Dental therapists, focused providers who specialize in routine preventative and basic restorative oral health care services, have worked in Oregon as part of a pilot project, including at select Tribal and Urban Indian health organization pilot sites, since February 2016. The new law allows them to practice in Tribal communities and in health settings across the state.

In addition to the Oregon pilot sites, dental therapists are currently working in Minnesota, Maine, Idaho, Washington State, and Alaska, where evidence has shown dental therapists have improved oral health outcomes and increased patient care.

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"Today, Tribes in Oregon got another tool in their toolbelt to improve oral health care,” said Lummi Nation Councilman, National Indian Health Board (NIHB) Vice Chairman, and Portland Area Representative Nickolaus Lewis. “The Tribes in the Pacific Northwest have led the way in bringing dental therapy to the Lower 48, and Oregon’s new law will expand opportunities for Tribes. We are pleased that the dental therapists working in Oregon’s pilot sites can soon be joined by more dental therapists in other Oregon Tribes determined to use this provider model to bring care to their people.”

Oregon's bill follows the education standards approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Oregon dental therapists will have to graduate from a CODA-accredited program. There is no degree requirement or hygiene licensure requirement in the legislation.

The new Oregon law also provides authorization for dental therapists working under the Community Health Aide Program (CHAP). The Indian Health Service is working to expand the Community Health Aide Program, which certifies medical, behavioral, and dental health care providers in the Alaska Area, to all of Indian Country. Dental therapists working under the Community Health Aide Program could use that federal certification instead of a state license.

National Indian Health Board 's Tribal Oral Health Initiative has more information about dental therapy. National Indian Health Board also co-chairs the National Partnership for Dental Therapy. National Indian Health Board looks forward to the day when all Tribes across the country have access to quality oral care that meet their needs.

For more information on Oregon's new law, click here.

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