Normandale Receives Grant from MN Department of Health to Expand Oral Health Care Access

By Angie Arnold - Grant Development Director

Normandale Community College recently received a Clinical Dental Education Innovation grant from the Minnesota Department of Health to support a unique collaboration with Metropolitan State University. The grant for $129,912 will fund the availability of an Advanced Dental Therapist one day a week at Nomandale's and Metro State's Dental Clinics.

Authorized by the Minnesota legislature in 2009, an advanced dental therapist is a new mid-level oral health professional equivalent to a nurse practitioner. The advanced dental therapist can perform duties beyond those provided by a dental hygienist, including tooth extractions and fillings. This occupation was developed to help address unmet oral health needs, particularly among children, low-income individuals, the elderly, rural populations, and other under-served groups.

Normandale has partnered with Metro State since 2005 to prepare licensed dental hygienists to become dental therapists and advanced dental therapists. The Department of Health grant will further strengthen this collaboration by providing dental hygiene and dental therapy students with regular opportunities to work with and be instructed by an Advanced Dental Therapist. The ADT will work one day per week at each institution's dental clinic, thereby expanding the dental services available to the community.

"The Advanced Dental Therapist role was designed to meet the needs of those with the least access to dental care," explained Dr. Colleen Brickle, Normandale Dean of Health Sciences. "Furthermore, dental hygiene clinics such as Normandale's are an important safety net for those who are uninsured or under-insured. The Advanced Dental Therapist will expand the services available in our clinic and will educate patients about the role this professional can play in improving oral health."

The grant will improve the educational experience of students at Normandale and Metropolitan State. "Our partnership will provide our students with an opportunity to work with an Advanced Dental Therapist and treat underserved patients," stated Dr. Suzanne Beatty, Dental Hygiene Program Director at Metropolitan State. "This in turn will encourage graduates to continue working with this population, thereby having a long-term impact on Minnesota's ability to expand oral healthcare access to all of our citizens."

"This collaboration is a wonderful example of how Minnesota State Colleges and Universities can come together to meet the needs of our students and the community," said Normandale President Dr. Joyce Ester. "Our partnership with Metropolitan State continues to bring innovative educational solutions to meet oral healthcare workforce needs while expanding access to vital dental services to underserved individuals, including our own students. I am very proud of what this collaboration has accomplished thus far. This grant will strengthen our work and create a model for other institutions - within MnSCU and beyond - to follow."