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Dental therapists aim to solve Alaska's teeth problems
Updated: 11/17/2011 7:00:03 PM

"The idea is gaining some traction because the federal government has identified more than 4,500 areas in all 50 states where it says there are critical shortages of dentists," said PBS correspondent Betty Ann Boswer. Back in September, Reuters reported on a government study which found that children living in remote parts of Alaska had rates of tooth decay four times the national average. Researchers found that lack of access to dental care was to blame, along with the fact that drinking water can be difficult to come across in these areas so many kids were primarily consuming soda.

Recently, PBS News Hour spoke to health officials in Alaska about what they have been doing to solve this problem since that study was published. According to officials, rural parts of this state are now the only areas in America where dental therapists are able to perform procedures without the supervision of a certified dentist.

"The idea is gaining some traction because the federal government has identified more than 4,500 areas in all 50 states where it says there are critical shortages of dentists," said PBS correspondent Betty Ann Boswer.

Many dentists oppose this idea, citing that these therapists need more training before they can properly care for patients. For people in these rural areas where most dentists refuse to go, this may be their only way of gaining access to oral care.

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