The Alaska Native population suffers from a disproportionate level of tooth decay compared to the rest of the United States due to a combination of risk factors including access to quality care. The Alaska Dental Therapy Education Program from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is a solution to increasing the availability of routine and preventive care for remote tribal communities, many of which are accessible only by air and sea.
ADTEP is pioneering a mid-level dental occupation in the United States that has a proven track record in 50 other countries called Dental Health Aide Therapists (DHATs). DHATs can work under the general supervision of dentists within the tribal communities they serve providing routine services like filling cavities and preventive care. The relationships DHATs build with their patients are a culturally appropriate solution to increasing dental education and improving the overall health of their communities. Their work shows potential for other rural U.S. communities that have a lack of access to full-time dentists.
More tribal communities outside of Alaska are seeking the benefits DHATs can bring to their clinics and sending students like Coeur d’Alene tribal member Anna DeGraffenreid, of Idaho, to the two-year program in Alaska. Tribal sponsorships cover the cost of tuition, supplies and travel so students graduate without debt. Upon graduation, DHATs return to their communities to perform their work and repay their education. The structure of the program ensures that every ADTEP graduate has a guaranteed job that pays well above the median wages available in their communities.
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Alaska Dental Therapy Education Program: http://bit.ly/2AGWg09
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