North Dakotans for Dental Access
North Dakotans for Dental Access News

Legislators hear about oral health disparity concerns and benefits of dental therapists

Center for Rural Health update to Legislative Committee

Dr. Shawnda Schroeder from UND’s Center for Rural Health presented new oral health studies to the most recent interim Health Services Committee of the North Dakota Legislature. Dr. Schroeder’s testimony included the status of pediatric oral health and updated research on access to dental services in the state. Some of the highlights included:
  1. North Dakota (55.36) has fewer dentists per 100,000 residents than the national average (60.89). 
  2. Currently (2016) 32% of our counties have no dentist and 15% have only 1. 
  3. American Indian and lower income youth in North Dakota are at a greater risk of tooth decay, rampant decay, need for treatment, and need for urgent treatment.
  4. Oral health was an identified priority among participating Long-Term Care facilities. However, most facilities struggle to put systems in place to meet the oral health needs of residents.
You can access the Center for Rural Health’s recent fact sheets here.

Benefits of a mid-level dental provider

Dr. Frank Catalanotto from the School of Dentistry at the University of Florida testified at the same legislative hearing this week regarding access to oral health care and the benefits of allowing dentists to hire mid-level dental providers called dental therapists. His testimony included the following points on how these providers can help in North Dakota.
  1. They are less expensive to educate, because they focus on a much more limited set of routine dental procedures.
  2. They are less expensive to employ, allowing dentists to bring in more patients on Medicaid.
  3. Dental therapists frequently come from the underserved communities they eventually serve.
  4. The quality and effectiveness of the dental therapists’ dental health services is first rate.
  5. In Minnesota and Alaska, therapists have been shown to be effective in reducing wait times at safety net clinics, work well as part of the team led by their supervising dentists, decreased use of hospital emergency departments, and other good indicators of improved access.
To read Dr. Catalanotto’s full testimony, please go to this link on the North Dakotans for Dental Access website.

Summit next week to address dental disparities in ND tribal communities

Among the health disparities facing Native Americans, lack of oral health care services continues to create preventable illness and pain.
On Monday, Aug. 1, at the Ramkota Inn in Bismarck, an important summit will take place to seek solutions for improving access to oral health care in Tribal Nations in North Dakota. The National Indian Health Board and the American Indian Public Health Resource Center at North Dakota State University have joined together bring tribal and state leaders together for this important meeting. For more information please contact Bonnie Hurner at Click here for more details. 


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