Dental therapists: A global perspective

David A. Nash, Jay W. Friedman, Thomas B. Kardos, Rosemary L. Kardos, Eli Schwarz, Julie Satur, Darren G. Berg, Jaafar Nasruddin, Elifuraha G. Mumghamba, Elizabeth S. Davenport, Ron Nagel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


In 1921, New Zealand began training school dental nurses, subsequently deploying them throughout the country in school-based clinics providing basic dental care for children. The concept of training dental nurses, later to be designated dental therapists, was adopted by other countries as a means of improving access to care, particularly for children. This paper profiles six countries that utilise dental therapists, with a description of the training that therapists receive in these countries, and the context in which they practice. Based on available demographic information, it also updates the number of dental therapists practising globally, as well as the countries in which they practice. In several countries, dental therapy is now being integrated with dental hygiene in training and practice to create a new type of professional complementary to a dentist. Increasingly, dental therapists are permitted to treat adults as well as children. The paper also describes the status of a current initiative to introduce dental therapy to the United States. It concludes by suggesting that dental therapists can become valued members of the dental team throughout the world, helping to improve access to care and reducing existing disparities in oral health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-70
Number of pages10
JournalInternational dental journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Dental therapist
  • Global dental workforce
  • School dental nurse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)


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