ADHA applauds Kellogg

Oct. 28, 2010
Report evaluates use of dental health aide therapist workforce model in Alaska.

CHICAGO, Illinois--The momentum in support of the introduction of new members to the dental team continued to build with the release of the report: "Evaluation of the Dental Health Aide Therapist Workforce Model in Alaska" by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“The American Dental Hygienists’ Association is pleased that a highly visible organization like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, by undertaking this research, has made improving the nation’s oral health one of its key priorities,” said ADHA President Caryn Solie, RDH.

“The Dental Health Aide Therapist (DHAT) study is the latest of many efforts Kellogg has undertaken to address the issue of access to oral health care in this nation. Stakeholders like Kellogg are vital in driving research and innovation which can help shape the future of the oral health system in the U.S.”

ADHA is encouraged that the research indicates that the therapist model seems to be successful in bringing dental care to those in remote Alaskan villages and that the report highlights the technical performance of restorative services that are administered by DHAT providers.

This is one of the first major demonstrations in the United States that restorative services can be successfully administered by nondentist providers. ADHA, which has long acknowledged the need for new dental providers to deliver oral health care services to those beyond the reach of the current system, is pleased that the results of the study indicate the effectiveness of adding alternative oral health-care providers to the dental team that are poised to positively impact the access to care crisis for oral health services in the U.S.

The situation in Alaska presents unique challenges in accessing dental care due to the widely isolated geographical distribution of tribal communities that are beyond the reach of the current system. ADHA believes that there are rural and urban underserved populations in the remaining 49 states that will require additional oral health providers with varying skill sets.

“We are already seeing increased demand for new types of dental providers and looking at ways to use the existing dental hygiene workforce in an advanced practice capacity is a concept that is gaining momentum,” said Solie.

“With a ready workforce of over 150,000 dental hygienists nationwide, an advanced practice dental hygienist or dental hygienist-therapist model that combines the established preventive professional expertise of the dental hygienist with basic restorative skills we anticipate will be a powerful solution to breaking down barriers the underserved currently face when seeking oral health-care services.”

In recognition of the dental access crisis plaguing the country, in 2004 ADHA began developing a new workforce model, the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner. The ADHP is a master's-level educated provider envisioned to serve a role in oral health akin to that of a nurse practitioner in medicine.

The ADHP will build on the existing dental hygiene education to develop providers able to administer an expanded scope of oral health services, including preventive and limited restorative services, working in collaboration with a dentist.

Additionally, ADHA is supportive of a combined dental therapist-dental hygienist model that has been highly successful in many countries around the world, including the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand.

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