Dental Access Project

Oral health is essential to overall health, yet 181 million Americans went without a dental visit in 2010. Millions of Americans live in pain, miss school or work, and in extreme cases, develop life-threatening infections due to lack of dental care. The Dental Access Project supports community-led efforts to:

The Dental Therapist Project, a joint initiative between Community Catalyst and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, focuses on empowering community groups and consumer health advocates to improve access to dental care by expanding the dental team to include a mid-level dental provider called a dental therapist. Community Catalyst has partnered with consumer and child health advocates and state and tribal leaders in Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington to explore the feasibility of establishing dental therapist programs to expand access to oral health care.

Dental therapists are culturally competent practitioners specially trained to deliver care in underserved communities under the supervision of a dentist. After completing a rigorous education program, dental therapists work as part of the dental team to increase access to oral health care. Dental therapists have successfully provided high-quality, routine dental care in Alaska since 2005, in Minnesota since 2011 and in more than 50 countries for over 90 years. Vermont and Maine recently passed legislation to authorize dental therapist. In addition, Oregon and Washington have dental therapy demonstration projects within tribal and non-tribal communities.

Working in conjunction with state advocates, community coalitions, dentists and dental hygienists, state and federal lawmakers, our state partners have changed the policy environment helping to improve access to oral health care.

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