Youth and Education news
Volume 3, January 2012
The Shocking Facts Behind the Dental Crisis in Indian Country—and a Possible
Maxine Brings Him Back-Janis and Terry Batliner are of Native descent and oral health–care providers. Each is passionate about improving the lives of Native people through better dental care. They worked together on a oral-health survey team at the Center for Native Oral Health Research at the University of Colorado Denver.
is Lakota and an an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University’s Department
of Dental Hygiene. In July 2010, Janis returned home to the Pine Ridge Reservation
and examined the teeth of her neighbors, friends and family.
To make matters worse, many children lack access to professional dental care. Pine Ridge is the size of Connecticut, yet has only 3 Indian Health Service dental clinics. Those clinics have 2 shared hygienists to serve 40,000 residents. Drop in hours are limited.
Another problem: many residents can't afford the hours long drive to a clinic with limited drop-in hours.
For these reasons, Janis says,
are unavailable to many, and root canals, crowns, dentures and bridges are rare.
“Alaska Natives are providing dental care
to fellow villagers in remote communities," Janis said. "High school graduates who are
willing to return to their villages are recruited into a training program to
become dental health aide therapists. In it, they are trained to provide basic
care that will enable community members to preserve their teeth.”
Batliner would like to see the Alaska program implemented throughout Indian country:
training program should be set up at a tribal college
Batliner believes dental therapists “can provide basic dental care very effectively.” Basic care
includes fillings, extractions, emergency care and preventive services. A supervising dentist
would be consulted by telephone.
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