Alaskan Dental Care Reaching Anniversary
Ten years ago, the first batch of Alaskan students got back from New Zealand with their dental health aid therapy certification. Dental health aid therapists are dental technicians who are trained to work in rural villages. Now Alaskans don’t have to travel overseas to receive a certification. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium provides the training within state.
Dental health aid therapists are trained to do fillings, simple extractions and cleanings. They also teach about dental health to the rural community they serve. Since the start of the program ten years ago, the DHATs have extended their coverage to serve more than 40,000 people in over 80 rural villages in Alaska.
The DHAT educational program of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium allows anyone to apply but they must have a GED or diploma, at least 18 years of age and sponsored by a tribal group. It is a two year program and a sponsor will pay for the student’s tuition and living expenses. The students have housing and living stipend and all their books and tuition are paid by the sponsor.
Expenses that are not paid by the tribe are taken care of by grants from the ANTHC. Students have to go to Bethel or Anchorage for the training. After their training, students will get a contract from the tribe that sponsored them.
The DHAT program is vital for the dental health in Alaska because the rural areas of the state don’t have dentists. Children in rural Alaska are two and a half times more probable of having tooth decay than children living in the cities.
For the past ten years, kids in the rural areas are cavity free. Children look at the dental therapist in their community as their role models. This year, there are five new dental therapists who graduated from the program.
Photo by Flag