Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Brief Cases: ‘Minnesota-light’ model for dental therapists, and educating lawyers on the go

A recent study disagrees with Minnesota’s approach to training dental therapists. Also, Continuing Legal Education classes for lawyers are now available for mobile devices.

Earlier this year, Minnesota became the first state to enact a law authorizing the deployment of a new type of health professional, dental therapists, to serve rural and underserved populations. The University of Minnesota followed by launching a four-year baccalaureate program in dental therapy last fall.

But a recent assessment from the nonprofit W.K. Kellogg Foundation urged a more simplified training and certification process of two years for a therapist or three years for joint dental therapy/dental hygiene education after high school, “to deliver a specified subset of dental procedures similar to successful models used outside of the U.S. for decades.”

The report concludes that the “Minnesota dental therapy model requires more schooling and stricter oversight than the established international model — two differences that could severely diminish its effectiveness by creating barriers to entering the profession and by increasing dental care costs.”

In particular, the report suggests that “dental therapists, who perform preventive and basic dental services, could provide sorely needed care to millions of underserved Americans, working in collaboration with dentists while expanding their reach. Similar to a nurse practitioner or physician assistant in the medical field, dental therapists are envisioned as members of the dental team that is led by the dentist or dental specialist. Internationally, dental therapists have been used successfully for decades to address inadequate access to dental care.”

Article continues after advertisement

However, dental therapy is still relatively new to the United States. In Alaska, dental therapists began work in 2003 in rural tribal areas of the state, according to the report. Dental therapy began in the 1920s in New Zealand and is now well-established around the world, including countries with advanced dental care similar to the United States, such as England, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, the foundation report notes.

“Decades of research have shown that the preventive and basic dental repair services provided by dental therapists are safe, high quality, acceptable to the public, and cost-effective,” it concludes.

Audio study courses for lawyers
Eagan-based West LegalEdcenter, a Thomson Reuters business, introduced software that allows lawyers to download required Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit courses on their iPhone and iPod touch.

“CLE Mobile allows users to listen to more than 2,000 CLE courses wherever they are and whenever it is most convenient,” the company said in a press release. After purchasing available CLE content online, courses become available for download to an iPhone or iPod touch through the CLE Mobile app,” the release said. “In addition, CLE Mobile also allows users to submit completed courses for online state mandatory CLE credit. West LegalEdcenter has re-created its online experience.”