Launched in 2007 as a collaborative effort between the Alaska Native Tribal Health Center and the University of Washington, DENTEX was developed to meet the oral health needs of native Alaskan people across 200 remote villages. Students enter a 24-month program as Dental Health Aide Therapists to learn prevention services, fillings, and uncomplicated extractions while working under supervising dentists. Year 1 is classroom instruction in Anchorage. In year 2 the trainees transfer to Bethel Alaska for supervised hands-on clinical experience with local patients. Currently, nearly 40,000 Alaska Native people living in rural Alaska now have improved access to regular dental care by more than two dozen federally certified DHATs.
Ferdella J. SharpBased in Manokotak, AK
Employed by Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation
“Is it worth it? That was my first thought when I heard of the opportunity to apply to DENTEX for the DHAT training. I am someone the people of Manokotak trusted to do any job put before me. But I had never done anything in the health field. So the encouragement I got for the community proved to me it was worth trying. It takes a steady hand and people skills to be an effective Dental Health Aide Therapist. My community’s faith in me—my future plans, and the confidence that I could be an effective Dental Health Aide Therapist— became reasons to answer my question, “Is it worth it?” with yes, it is!”