The distances in Alaska are vast. Even when they’re not neighboring communities are often cut off from one another during the winter as waterways freeze over requiring snow vehicles where once a boat would do. DHATs are meant to bridge the gap of yearly visits from itinerant dentists by living in these communities where they were raised and understand the culture. Many DHAT providers have a service region that extends beyond the base community where they live. Neighboring communities can add 80 more residents here, 100 more there, sometimes doubling their patient load above the base community. Even short distances require complex travel, usually by plane, to provide proper oral healthcare services to those who would not otherwise benefit.
Sinea WilliamsBethel, AK
“Before the DHAT clinic Bethel dental services were chaotic. It was hard to get an appointment. Typically the waiting time was so long you thought to go somewhere else. Here, it is unbelievably simple. The Alaska native DHATs make the experience more comfortable. I was skeptical at first because I know the DHATs are just learning, but they ask a lot of questions, tell you step-by-step what’s going on, and tell you what the plan is. I am very confident in the DHAT program and students.”