AAPD Responds to Kellogg Study of Alaska Dental Health Aide Therapist Program

February 1, 2010 03:13 PM

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the recognized leader in children’s oral health, welcomes dialogue and participation from organizations such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in ensuring that everything is being done to improve the oral health status of at-risk children. Upon review of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s recent evaluation of U.S. dental therapists in Alaska, AAPD questions whether the report’s findings that dental therapists with two years of intensive training provide "safe, competent and appropriate dental care." The AAPD views this as a flawed evaluation that fails to offer a reliable quantitative assessment of whether the program had any impact on dental care access in Alaska.

According to AAPD President Dr. John R. Liu, "This evaluation is not a randomized trial of quality assessment that compares the outcomes of licensed dentists with those of therapists." He added, "In our opinion, this report clearly demonstrates that the question of effectiveness has not been adequately addressed or answered. There is absolutely no indication that the oral health status of these populations has improved, and the report itself states that it did not attempt to quantify changes in access to care; rather it provided only anecdotal/testimonial comments from individuals."

The study’s narrow scope evaluated only five dental health aide therapists in five sites over a limited period of two-and-a-half years. "The evaluation lacked performance standards for measures of quality of individual care or practice procedures, and the results couldn’t be generated beyond the grounds included in the study, as it only sampled children over the age of 6-years-old," continued Liu. "Sadly, in preschool-aged children, where dental disease rates are quickly increasing, this demographic wasn’t even examined."

The AAPD understands that Alaska is a unique challenge, and that nowhere in the lower 48 states do they experience the difficulties that some of these tribes have endured due to the remoteness of their location, and the harsh winters that isolate them for a good portion of the year.

"There are no simple answers and the dental community needs to be doing everything it can to improve the oral health of children. We found that the report did not reflect the same standards of evaluation applied to other research reports in terms of scientific evidence-based analysis, and that overall, there were few measures in place to truly assess the quality of care in dental practices," concluded Liu.

Attached Document(s): Click here to download the press release.


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