Dentists provide effective supervision of Alaska's dental health aide therapists in a variety of settings


Ms. Nicole Fauteux, 9822 Limoges Drive, Fairfax, VA 22032-1118. Tel.: 571-213-1040; e-mail: Mary E. Williard is with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Division of Community Health Services, University of Washington, DENTEX Training Center. Nicole Fauteux is an independent writer and editor.


Objectives: This paper examines the supervisory relationships between Alaska's dental health aide therapists (DHATs) and their supervising dentists to gain insight into how DHATs are being deployed and supervised to increase access while ensuring safety and quality.

Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted with four DHATs, their supervising dentists, and the dental directors at three health corporations in geographically distinct areas of Alaska. Follow-up questions were submitted and responded to via e-mail.

Results: This article profiles three DHATs and their supervising dentists, and offers observations on how dentists supervise and work in a team format with DHATs.

Conclusions: DHATs practice as part of a care team, with dentists providing direct, indirect, and general supervision. Both DHAT training, with its mandatory preceptorship, and the group practice model are designed to assure that DHATs provide safe, competent, and appropriate care within their limited scope of practice. The presence of DHATs allows dentists on the care team to play roles commensurate with the full extent of their training. Tribal health organizations in Alaska are deploying these providers safely and effectively in a variety of roles, according to regional needs and preferences. This suggests the model's potential adaptability to settings outside Alaska.