BC Dental Therapists
About the BC Dental Therapists
Dental Therapists play a unique and essential role on the oral health team. There are approximately 300 of these primary health care professionals throughout Canada, and they play a vital role in managing dental pain and maintaining the overall health of their patients, many of whom reside in rural and northern communities. Dental Therapists provide therapeutic dental treatment services, disease prevention, and oral health promotion programs that focus on maintaining and improving health.
The Dental Therapy scope of practice includes:
- Management of dental emergencies to alleviate pain
- Assessment, prescription, exposure, and interpretation of x-rays that support diagnosis, treatment planning, and case presentation for individualized care.
- Diagnosis of tooth decay and infections
- Restorative dentistry
- Extraction of primary teeth and uncomplicated extractions of permanent teeth
- Placement and removal of sutures
- Treatment for patients with mild to moderate periodontal disease
- Preventative services, including teeth cleaning, polishing, fluoride applications, pit and fissure sealants and individualized client-centered education and product recommendations
- Endodontics limited to (a) Pulpotomy – limited to primary teeth only (b) Pulpotomy for emergency treatment only – permanent teeth (c) Pulp capping
FAQs about Dental Therapists
What is a Dental Therapist?
A dental therapist is a dental team member who provides preventive and restorative dental care for children and adults. Dental therapists work under the direction and supervision of a Doctor of Dental Services (Dentist) who is in good standing with the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C.
What is the history of DTs in Canada?
Dental therapists have a long history in Canada. In 1972, two dental therapy programs were created in response to the compounding data that identified Canadians’ significant unmet oral health needs in many regions. The first program ran out of the Regina General Hospital in Saskatchewan, and the second was out of the National School of Dental Therapy in Fort Smith (NSDT), Northwest territories. The programs were 28 months long and more attractive to students than the seven- or eight-year dentistry programs. Once the first class of dental therapists graduated in 1974, it was a huge success. Tens of thousands of children could access preventive and restorative quality care. Hiring dental therapists on salaries rather than the traditional fee-for-service model made dental care and maintenance available to Canadians from all socio-economic backgrounds.
Where do DTs work in B.C.?
All dental therapists in British Columbia must be employed by the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and work only in communities FNHA supports. This limits the amount of reach and accessibility that the public has to DTs and reduces options for this pivotal profession to impact rural and underserved communities that do not fall under the FNHA’s jurisdiction. The British Columbia College of Oral Health Professionals of regulates DTs.
Where are DTs educated?
Many dental therapists in Canada completed their training at the National School of Therapy in Prince Albert, Sask. This program lost its funding in 2011, however, there is a plan to bring back the dental therapy program in 2023 through the Saskatchewan Polytechnic School of Health Sciences and Nursing.
Are DTs hygienists with advanced ?
Dental therapists may provide care for mild to moderate periodontal disease and have advanced their training to include more extensive services, some traditionally offered by dentists. Currently, dental therapists can only work for the FNHA and are not able to register to work as dental hygienists.
If I’m a dental hygienist. How can I become a dental therapist?
Currently, there are no active dental therapy programs in Canada. In 2023, a new program will be accepting applications at the Saskatchewan Polytechnic School of Health Sciences and . There is a School of Dental Therapy out of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to obtain your training, however, at this time, the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia has not yet reviewed the curriculum from this school to determine if they would qualify to work in Canada. Some DT programs in BC are considering how to include additional educational components at the completion of the DH program, that would enable individuals to become a DT.
Are retired dental therapists in B.C. allowed to join the BCDHA?
The BCDHA encourages and welcomes all practicing and non-practicing dental therapists to join.
What will DTs pay to belong to BCDHA?
Dental therapists’ fees are the same as the dental hygienist’s yearly fees for full membership, which is $186 per year.
Would B.C. ever consider educating DTs?
According to educators at UBC’s Faculty of Dentistry, there are no plans for adding a one-year program for dental hygienists to become trained in dental therapy and no discussions for projects in the future.
How will BCDHA manage to advocate with DTs along with DHs and CDAs?
The BCDHA has a long history of advocating for its members. We have a fully staffed organization working around the clock that can accommodate the wants and needs of all our oral health professionals.
Meet Brenda Isaac of the BC Dental Therapists
BC Dental Therapist
Hello, thank you for inviting the BC Dental Therapists to be a part of the BCDHA. We look forward to seeing what kind of good work we can accomplish together.
My name is Brenda Isaac, and I am First Nations, originally from Lytton. I graduated in the third class of dental therapy in 1978 from the original National School of Dental Therapy in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. Our founding father was Dr Keith Davey, Pediatric DDS.
I have had the pleasure of working in many different environments: first in the isolated/remote areas of Nunavut and Northwest Territories, and then in rural areas of Northern BC. For the past 18 years, I’ve provided services to suburban areas of the Fraser Valley and rural areas of the Interior in the Fraser Canyon. Through the duration of my career I have had the privilege of learning about the many diverse cultures in all these regions.
My clinical experiences have contributed to my diverse background as a provider. In the beginning of my career, I would travel my snowmobile to attend my communities. Frequently my clinics would be entirely portable, requiring me to move extremely heavy and awkward equipment and supplies alone. Looking back, I am proud of the strength and adaptability I have brought to the many Nations I have served. BC Dental Therapists are a determined group and work hard to do what needs to be done to deliver culturally safe and humble care in unconventional settings.
It is with pleasure that Dental Therapist link arms with the BCDHA.