For millions across the globe, getting a routine cleaning at the dentist is a luxury they lack, and the dire need for accessible and affordable dental care is growing.
Minnesota State is helping relieve it with the introduction of its Advanced Dental Training, or ADT program.
The ADT Program at MSU is the fourth of its kind in the country. The program trains individuals to serve as the dental version of a nurse practitioner. In other words, an Advanced Dental Therapist is more than a hygienist, but less than a dentist.
These therapists go on to take care of patients that often come from rural areas, and have little to no dental work done.
“These dental therapists are going to fill a huge gap in care, especially in rural health—dentists don’t always accept Medicaid, or state funded insurances,” said Trisha Krenik-Matejcek, professor in Dental Education at MSU. “These dental therapists could work in community clinics and do a lot of these fillings that some of the private practices won’t, so it’s a really good thing for rural public health and dental health.”
Director of the ADT Program, Anitha Peddireddy, has a long road of experience with dentistry in countries such as Denmark, Australia and the United States. She stresses the importance of ADT students having the “desire to help people.”
“ADT is definitely not for everybody because you need to have a lot of cultural acceptance and empathy; you have to be really strong-willed and helpful,” Peddireddy said. “These people have never seen the dentist and it’s the first time they’ve come to the clinic and you’ll see like 10-15 cavities, and a lot of teeth are gone, and they’re from very low socioeconomic status. You have to be really empathetic and understand their point of view.”
MSU student Crisstill Duaso knew dentistry as a privilege. Coming from the Philippines, Duaso settled in Minnesota at 5 years old. It was not until her arrival that she experienced sitting in a dental chair for the first time.
“I had really, really bad teeth and they didn’t really prioritize dental care in the Philippines, so I didn’t have any work done on my teeth until then,” Duaso said. “I visited the dentist a lot and needed so much work, and I never really complained about it. I was always so interested when I was younger about all the stuff that they did because it was very foreign to me.”
The dental hygiene selection process in itself is competitive. From the slim number of 30 students that were accepted, six will go on to pursue their Master of Science in ADT. One of those six is Duaso, who recalls getting her acceptance letter in the middle of class.
“I was in shock,” Duaso said. “I couldn’t even focus the rest of that class period because it was just a surreal feeling to have that hard work pay off.”
Students like Duaso, who will become the first in her family to graduate university, are eager to undertake the task.
“A lot of the stuff that I work for goes back on to my family,” Duaso said. “Being a Filipino, we’re very family oriented, so I do a lot to just make my family proud and it’s a really big motivator. It feels really good to do all these achievements for them.”
The ADT program is proving to be a success, as they have bookings placed as far as mid-fall. Anyone is able to book appointments through the clinic on campus and utilize an affordable alternative by calling 507-389-2147 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Header photo: ADT Program student, Rachel Wangen (front left), is the first graduate of the ADT Program as of fall 2022. She is accompanied by Dr. Anitha Peddireddy (front right), Cynthia Degner (back left), and Amanda Weyek (back right). (Courtesy Anitha Peddireddy)
Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at email@example.com