Health | Opinion

Laurie Monnes Anderson: Oregon tribes take lead on dental care






Dental health aide therapists in Alaska have been successfully providing services to rural Native villages since 2006. Photo from Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium / Facebook

Oregon Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D) praises the Coquille Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians for being the first to bring dental aides to their communities in the state as part of a pilot program:
American Indians face alarming oral health disparities, with rates of decay in children triple that of any population in the United States. This pilot is an important step forward in addressing the oral health issues afflicting Native communities and potentially other Oregonians facing barriers to care. More than one quarter of our population live in areas with a shortage of dentists, and one in five of our children ages 6 to 9 had untreated tooth decay in 2012.

I have seen first-hand the devastating effects of poor oral health and lack of access to care. As a public health nurse, I worked with many families in poverty who struggled to find or get to a dentist. Mothers would have to take their children to the emergency room when the child developed mouth pain and infection.

Fortunately, allowing dentists to hire dental therapists has provided a way to address these and other problems elsewhere in the country. These providers have been practicing successfully as part of the dental team in Alaska's tribal communities for more than a decade. With bipartisan support, Minnesota and Maine passed laws enabling dentists to hire dental therapists in 2009 and 2014 respectively.

Get the Story:
Laurie Monnes Anderson: Tribal pilot program may point to dental-care future for all Oregonians (The Oregonian 4/19)

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Swinomish Tribe hires first dental aide therapist in Washington (01/04)
Mark Trahant: Sovereignty in action with dental health programs (07/08)
Native Youth: Bring dental therapy providers to Indian Country (03/26)
Michael Bird: Dental care comes up short for New Mexico tribes (03/09)
Mobile dental clinic takes service to Navajo Nation communities (02/25)
NNHA: Dental care arrives too late for many in Indian Country (06/27)
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