The Australian Dental Therapy Project
The Australian Dental Therapy Project

Exploring dental therapy models around the world to assess whether adopting the practice would improve access to equitable dental health care in the U.S.

Student researcher: Sydney Brown, junior biology major, pre-dentistry

Faculty mentor: Kim Isringhausen, R.D.H., associate professor, School of Dentistry, chair, Department of Oral Health Promotion and Community Outreach

TEETH WISDOM: GETTING SMART ABOUT DENTAL THERAPY

SYDNEY BROWN: Internationally there exists a mid-level practitioner in the dental field — similar to a nurse in medicine — who provides care to underserved populations. My research is looking at many different countries to see how these models are working. In the U.S., this mid-level practice is vehemently opposed by the American Dental Association. But, because it’s a way to bring oral health care to those for whom it’s out of reach, my goal is to explore these global models and assess the benefits of incorporating them in this country. In addition to potentially helping many people, this will help me to become a better dentist.

KIM ISRINGHAUSEN: From our first introduction, I was extremely impressed with Sydney and her project. An idea that aims to address the national crisis of access to dental health care in the U.S. is ingenious, yet significant and timely. Sydney is smart, interested, committed and professional — just a very self-motivated individual. She’s a great illustration of what research does for undergraduates: It takes them in-depth into their field, gives them technical skills and lets them make connections that will have a lasting impact.

THE RESULTS: As a freshman my goal was to get involved in a research project that I was truly passionate about; that led me to discover the whole concept of mid-level dental practitioners. I’ve learned a lot about the problems of accessibility to dental care both here and abroad, especially for children. My research has given me the background knowledge I need to start addressing these issues, along with the credibility to hopefully get my research published or be able to attend a conference to spread the word about dental therapy and what it could mean for access to dental care in the U.S.