In mid-December, seven students graduated as dental health aide therapists (also called dental therapists), and will soon join the twelve already providing much-needed dental care to Alaska Natives. Graduates from the two-year training program in Alaska are entering the next step in their training, which includes completing 400 hours of preventative and basic dental care services working under the direct supervision of an assigned dentist. Once they successfully complete this step, the dental therapists will move to a community and work under the general supervision of a dentist. The ceremony also included the transition of six students moving from the first year of classroom education, to their second year with clinical training in Bethel, Alaska.
Watch KTUU Anchorage News Coverage of the recent graduation of the dental therapist program, showcasing this innovative Alaska model with unique potential to impact dental care in other states.
In Alaska, dental therapists have been providing preventive and basic dental care to children and families in remote Alaska Native villages since 2005. Modeled after a program that began in New Zealand in 1920, dental therapists provide prevention and education services, as well as cleanings, restorations and uncomplicated extractions.
The training is offered through DENTEX, which is a collaboration between the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the University of Washington, School of Medicine Physician Assistant Training Program. The DENTEX mission is to educate dental health aide therapists to provide dental care to Alaska Native communities in the Alaska bush. For more information, visit DENTEX’s homepage.