ADEA State Update

Dental Therapy Legislation Moves Ahead in Michigan

(State Policy, Alternative Workforce Models, Dental Health, Dental Therapist, Licensure) Permanent link   All Posts

DentalTherapyExamOn Oct. 11, SB 541 passed the full Senate by a vote of 21–15, with two excused absences. The bill would establish the qualifications for dental therapist licensure, including education, examination and completion of a supervised clinical practice requirement. The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-MI), serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Policy. The bill has four other cosponsors.

The following is a summary of some of the bill’s key provisions:


To qualify for licensure as a dental therapist, an individual must demonstrate to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs that he or she meets all the following requirements: 

  • Graduated from a dental therapy education program that satisfies all of the following: 
  • Meets the standards established under statute for accreditation of a degree-granting program in dental therapy education at an approved postsecondary education institution.
  • Meets the accreditation standards for dental therapy education programs established by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.
  • Is properly accredited under statute.
  • Meets any other requirements for dental therapy education programs adopted by the Michigan Board of Dentistry.
  • Passed a comprehensive, competency-based clinical examination approved by the department that includes an examination of the applicant’s knowledge of the relevant laws in Michigan.
  • Completed 500 hours of supervised clinical practice under the direct supervision of a dentist and in conformity with rules adopted by the Michigan Board of Dentistry.[1] An individual engaged in completing his or her supervised clinical practice under this subdivision is eligible for a temporary license as a dental therapist. 

Written Practice Agreement

The bill as written provides that a dental therapist may practice only under the supervision of a dentist and through a written practice agreement signed by both the dentist and the dental therapist. The bill outlines certain criteria that the written agreement must contain, such as a plan for managing medical emergencies in each practice setting in which the dental therapist provides care and protocols for administering and dispensing medications. 

Supervision and Scope of Practice

Under the supervision of a dentist, a licensed dental therapist may provide any of the following care or services (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Dispensing and administering via the oral or topical route nonnarcotic analgesics and anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications as prescribed by a health care professional.
  • Simple extraction of erupted primary teeth.
  • Preparation and placement of direct restoration in primary and permanent teeth.

A complete listing of procedures included within the scope of practice of a dental therapist may be found in Sec. 16657 of SB 541.

Practice Settings

A dental therapist may provide services under the general supervision of a licensed dentist in the following health settings (this list is not exhaustive): 

  • A hospital.
  • A federally qualified health center.
  • A health setting in a geographic area that is designated as a dental shortage area by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill has been sent to the House Committee on Health Policy for further consideration.

[1] “Direct supervision” means that a dentist complies with all of the following: (i) designates a patient of record upon whom the procedures are to be performed and describes the procedures to be performed, (ii) examines the patient before prescribing the procedures to be performed and upon completion of the procedures, and (iii) is physically present in the office at the time the procedures are being performed.

Duggan Dental