Dental therapist program in new video

Oct. 28, 2010
Independent evaluation of program in state finds dental therapists provide safe, competent, appropriate dental care.

BATTLE CREEK, Michigan--Conan Murat is one of America's first dental therapists. He provides preventive and basic dental services, including cleanings, fillings, and simple extractions.

He brings care to many Alaska Natives in areas where there are no dentists, relieves suffering, and brings back smiles. To many children and families, he is a hero.

Conan works in more than a dozen rural villages in Alaska, where regular access to a dentist often means buying a ticket and getting on an airplane. The services provided by dental therapists like Conan are sorely-needed in many rural towns and big cities across America.

A new video spotlights the success of dental therapists working in Alaska. It coincides with the release of the first major independent evaluation of the implementation of the dental therapy program in Alaska. Conducted by RTI International Research of Research Triangle Park, N.C., and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation and Bethel Community Services Foundation, the evaluation found that dental therapists in Alaska are clearly providing safe, competent, and appropriate dental care.

Dental therapists have been providing preventive and basic dental care to families in remote Alaska Native villages since 2006, as part of a dental team and extending the reach of dentists.

More than 49 million children and adults in the U.S. live in areas without enough dentists. Millions more cannot afford to pay for dental care. Yet, dental therapists are only permitted to work in Alaska and Minnesota. Other states, including Connecticut, California, Kansas, Maine, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont and Washington, are weighing the use of alternative dental providers such as dental therapists.

Dental therapists undergo an extensive two-year training program and work under the supervision of dentists.

The evaluation found that patients are very satisfied with the care they receive and they are well accepted. Pioneered internationally, dental therapists have been well-established members of the dental team for more than 80 years in nearly 50 countries, including those with advanced dental care systems similar to the U.S.

Like nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives and nurse anesthetists, they are examples of how the health-care workforce has been successfully expanded to improve access to care.

To view the video, go to therapists.

For more information, go to

To read more about the study of Alaska dental therapists, go to study.

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