First Master’s in Oral Health Care Students Nearing Graduation at Metropolitan State University

The program is the first of its kind in Minnesota to produce mid-level dental practitioners to work with underserved populations.

ST. PAUL, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- The first cohort of students is making its way through the new Master of Science: Oral Health Care Practitioner program at Metropolitan State University. The program is the first of its kind in Minnesota. These students represent the new mid-level dental providers able to remove decay and restore teeth for children and adults, as well as extract primary teeth, while under the supervision of a licensed dentist. The first class of seven students is scheduled to graduate in the summer of 2011.

Oral health care practitioner graduates will be eligible to be licensed as dental therapists and certified as advanced dental therapists. These mid-level dental practitioners will make it easier and more affordable for underserved populations, including children, the elderly and working poor to obtain high-quality oral health care. In 2009, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law the Dental Therapist Legislation providing two levels of providers. A dental therapist requires a bachelor’s degree, and an advanced dental therapist requires a master’s degree. Many advanced dental therapists may work in community settings under general supervision of a licensed dentist.

Metropolitan State University is partnering with Normandale Community College to offer the oral health care practitioner program, which includes a teaching clinic to prepare students to treat underserved populations, as well as to sponsor a community clinic for underserved populations. Here, these students receive hands-on experience serving patients while collaborating with dentists and other health care professionals. The clinic is also the setting where students begin to meet their licensure requirement of 2,000 hours of supervised clinical practice.

According to a 2007 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans, particularly children, the elderly and the working poor, are not getting the oral health care they need. A recent study of visits to Twin Cities emergency rooms, presented to the American Public Health Association annual meeting in 2007, found more than 10,000 emergency room visits were related to oral health problems (mainly pain and infection) at a cost of more than $4.7 million in one year.

“Oral health is one of the greatest unmet health care needs in our country,” said Sue Hammersmith, President of Metropolitan State University. “According to the Minnesota Department of Health, about one third of our state’s 3,000 practicing dentists are 55 years or older, and there are seven Minnesota dentists retiring for every five entering the profession. We need to put more qualified dental therapists and advanced dental therapists into the market.”

Registered dental hygienists with 1,000 clinical hours of experience beyond their bachelor’s degree may apply to the master’s level program at Metropolitan State University. The master’s program consists of 44 credits and takes approximately two and a half years to complete.

About Metropolitan State University
Metropolitan State University (, a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, provides high-quality, affordable academic and professional degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. It is the only state university in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.


Metropolitan State University
Ann Leja, 651-793-1402
Interim Dean, College of Nursing and Health Sciences
[email protected]
John Hendrickson, 651-793-1818
Director of Marketing and Communications
[email protected]

KEYWORDS:   United States  North America  Minnesota

INDUSTRY KEYWORDS:   Education  University  Continuing  Health  Dental  Hospitals  Nursing