The goal of the study was to identify secular trends in dental service delivery between
dental therapists and dentists in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of Southwest Alaska,
the first area of the United States to authorize dental therapy practice.
Electronic health record transactions from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation
from 2006 through 2015 (n = 27,459) were analyzed. Five types of dental services were
identified using Current Dental Terminology procedure codes: diagnostic, preventive,
restorative, endodontic, and oral surgery. Main outcomes were percentages of services
provided by dental therapists compared with dentists and population-level preventive
oral health care.
The overall number of diagnostic, preventive, and restorative services in the Yukon-Kuskokwim
Delta increased. For diagnostic services, there was a 3.5% annual decrease observed
for dentists and a 4.1% annual increase for dental therapists (P < .001). Similar trends were observed for restorative services. For preventive services,
there was no change for dentists (P = .89) and a 4.8% annual increase for dental therapists (P < .001). Dental therapists were more likely than dentists to provide preventive care
at the population level.
Dental therapists have made substantial contributions to the delivery of dental services
in Alaska Native communities, particularly for population-based preventive care.
The study’s findings indicate that there is a role for dental therapy practice in
addressing poor access to oral health care in underserved communities.