In response to a shortage of dentists in rural Alaska, local leaders decided to send Alaska natives to New Zealand to be trained as dental therapists. The first eight trainees are now helping to perform basic dental work in remote areas of the state.
The American Dental Association (ADA) isn’t happy about it.
A recent court case filed by the ADA seeks to prohibit foreign trained dental therapists from practicing in Alaska. While much of the rest of the developed world has such practitioners (think nurse practitioners for dentistry) the U.S. has no such category. The ADA argues that the practice will â€œput people at risk.â€
As if Alaska’s current lack of dentists and resulting high tooth decay rates don’t “put people at risk.”
Rural areas need to seek creative solutions to deal with the low numbers of healthcare providers in their areas. Dental therapists (good enough for New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Great Britain) should be a part of the solution.
The ADA is also taking their fight to the U.S. Congress where they hope to limit the spread of the program beyond the state of Alaska.