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Health
Judge upholds Alaska Native dental program


A judge in Alaska has dismissed a challenge to a dental therapist program for Native villages.

The American Dental Association, the Alaska Dental Society and four dentists sued the state and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, charging that the program puts Alaska Natives at risk. They wanted the dental aides to seek state licenses to practice in the villages.

But Judge Mark Rindner said imposing a state scheme on the program would frustrate tribal self-determination under the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and the Indian Self-Determination Act. Rindner cited the federal government's long history in providing dental care to Alaska Natives.

At least eight dental therapists are currently doing fillings, simple tooth extractions and other procedures, according to The Anchorage Daily News. They cannot perform surgical operations such as root canals.

Get the Story:
Native-run dental program approved (The Anchorage Daily News 6/28)
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Court Decision:
Alaska Dental Society v. Alaska (June 27, 2007)

Relevant Links:
American Dental Association - http://www.ada.org

Related Stories:
Lawsuit filed to stop Alaska Native dental aides (2/1)
Alaska dental care program stirs controversy (11/23)
Dental program seeks to help rural Alaska Natives (01/11)