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Alaska dental therapist report issued

ADA welcomes dialogue

Battle Creek, Mich.—ADA President Raymond Gist questioned the policy impact of an Oct. 26 report on dental therapists while commending dialogue on the nation’s oral health.

“We welcome an organization of the stature of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to the fight to improve the nation’s oral health,” he said in the ADA’s initial response to the report. “We do not believe, however, that the report Kellogg released today on the Alaska Dental Health Aide Therapist program—constituting a study of only five therapists and 300 patients—delivers the kind of data on which major health policy decisions should be made.

“But no matter where you stand on the idea of non-dentists performing surgery—and we stand firmly against it—the ongoing clamor about scope of practice obscures the critical need to address much more significant barriers to oral health, such as funding Medicaid and SCHIP, repairing the tattered dental safety net, and dramatically building the oral health education and prevention infrastructure that ultimately is the only way this nation will end its tragic epidemic of untreated oral disease among children and adults.” (SCHIP is the State Children's Health Insurance Program.)

The ADA has posted a statement online.

The report and videos of the Alaska dental therapist program are posted at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation website, www.wkkf.org. RTI International of Research Triangle Park, N.C. conducted the program evaluation with funding from the W.K. Kellogg, Rasmuson and Bethel Community Services Foundations.

A press release issued with the report says the evaluation indicates that:

  • Dental therapists are technically competent to perform the procedures within their scope of work and are doing so safely and appropriately;
  • They are consistently working under the general supervision of dentists;
  • They are successfully treating cavities and helping to relieve pain for people who often had to wait months or travel hours to seek treatment;
  • Patients were very satisfied with the care they received, and
  • They are well-accepted in tribal villages.