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.
Bonnie JohnsonBased in Emmonak, AK
Employed by Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation
“I was raised in a village that did not receive consistent dental care. Dental providers would come and go. Unfortunately, there were villages that did not receive any dental care. Now, I am a Dental Health Aide Therapist who is able to provide much needed dental care to 4 villages on the Yukon Delta. I am able to educate many that had little or no knowledge of the importance of good oral hygiene. The majority of the children were fearful of dental because they usually had experienced the trauma of having teeth extracted in a papoose board. Now that I have been stationed in the Emmonak sub-region for over a year, children anticipate a fun dental visit. I am proud to provide preventive and basic restorative dental care to rural Alaska.”