With Few Dentists and Much Tooth Decay, Rural Alaskans’ Teeth Were Hurting
In a major turnaround for dental care in rural Alaska, the ADA and the Alaska Dental Society have dropped their lawsuit against dental therapists – in fact, they’re going to donate over half a million dollars to the cause.
The two professional organizations objected to dental therapists offering dental health services such as exams, cleanings, fillings and simple extractions. Last year, they filed suit against the individual dental therapists, the state, and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. When the Superior Court ruled that the dental therapists were in accordance with federal law, the ADA and ADS decided not to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court.
The first Alaskan dental therapists began working there in 2005; the program was created via congressional board to improve access to dental care in rural Alaska. As no American dental school offer dental therapist credentials, the therapists trained for two years in New Zealand.
The ADA and ADS both say they will work harder to bring more licensed dentists to Alaska’s rural areas. But unless and until that happens, it looks like dental therapists will be an important part of many an Alaskan’s oral health.
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