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.
Robert CurtisBased in Shishmaref, AK
Employed by Norton Sound Health Corporation
“Initially I worked as a Dental Assistant. The DHAT program interested me, and I trained as a DHAT in New Zealand during 2003-2004. Currently I live in a remote community of 600 to 700 people. The population of kids is around 200 to 300. We have a weekly flouride schedule where we go up to the school at a set time Monday through Thursdays. During the school year we take kids out of class to do cleaning, provide fluoride treatment and talk about brushing. If they have other work that needs to be done we get them in after. With adults we schedule them into the clinic early in the morning or after school is out. If a patient comes in and I see the procedure will be out of my scope of practice I refer them to the dentist in Nome.”