In July, Frank Catalanotto, D.M.D., professor and chair of the UF College of Dentistry Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science, was invited to join Oral Health America’s (OHA) Vice President Liz Rogers, as guests of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) on a trip to Anchorage and Bethel, Alaska, to observe the Dental Health Aide Therapist (DHAT) program.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation invited a group of dentists to visit the ANTHC dental therapist program in order to create a better understanding of the training and practice of these new oral health professionals.
“The educational tour allowed us to share accurate and first-hand information about the Alaska Dental Health Aide Therapist Program with dentists and other individuals who are interested in learning about it,” said Albert Yee, MD, MPH, Senior Project Director/Health Advisor, Education Development Center, Inc.
“The tour helped to address the incomplete and erroneous information that is out there and also provided the opportunity to hear some of the tour participants’ perspectives on the program.”
The visit included presentations from ANTHC and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) about the population being served and the oral health needs of communities in Alaska, the education of dental therapists, and the dentist-led practice teams, including supervision models, community health approaches and other related topics. Attendees also met a number of the DHATs and observed as they provided preventive and restorative care in the YKHC clinic.
“We all got to review the evidence on the efficacy, safety, and tremendous value of this workforce model,” said Catalanotto. “While the DHATs are especially suited to Alaska’s needs, it was clear to most of us that they would have applicability in many situations in ‘the lower 48’.”
“I was struck by Alaska’s size, cultural heritage, and by the remoteness of the rural villages,” said Liz Rogers. “The DHAT program works beautifully in these conditions to bring oral health education and preventive and restorative care to native Alaskans. I appreciate the training that the program dentists are providing to the DHATs, and the unique stories of the therapists, who are committed to caring for their communities.”