North Dakotans for Dental Access
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North Dakotans for Dental Access News

ND Tribes Unanimously Endorse Dental Therapy

North Dakota Dental Care Facts:
Half of American Indian 3rd graders have had untreated tooth decay.[i]
 
United Tribes of North Dakota passes dental therapy resolution
Earlier this month, the United Tribes of North Dakota unanimously passed a resolution requesting that North Dakota pass legislation authorizing dental therapists. The United Tribes of North Dakota is the inter-tribal association of five federally recognized tribes located in North Dakota and was founded in 1968 to further the common goals of Indian Tribes and Nations.
 
Like many others, lack of access to dental care is an important issue for North Dakota’s tribes. There is a high unmet need for dental care among many North Dakotans, particularly within the Native population, due in part to the lack of dentists available to serve both reservation and off-reservation Native populations.  American Indians also have a higher prevalence of cavities and untreated tooth decay in all age groups compared to the general US population.  And there are few dental cavities prevention programs that target Native American children.
 
Dental therapists are already helping fill these gaps for tribes and others in the United States. In fact, the resolution highlights how dental therapists are already “in practice in Alaska with the Alaska Native patient population in collaboration with the United States Indian Health Service.”
 
North Dakota does not have enough access to affordable, routine dental care. It’s a decades-old problem in the state that affects the general health and quality of life of thousands of North Dakota’s residents, many of whom live on or near reservations.
 
By passing this resolution, the Council is asking North Dakota to authorize dental therapists and follow a proven method used in Minnesota, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Vermont and more than 50 countries around the world.
 
“Now therefore it be resolved that the United Tribes of North Dakota request that the State of North Dakota pass legislation authorizing Dental Health Aide Therapists in order to empower tribes and the Indian Health Service to provide desperately needed dental care to our communities.”
 
Click here to read the full resolution.  
 
Facts: Oral Health Access for ND Tribes
  • Over 80% of Native children aged 2-4 years have dental caries;
  • 83% of Native children between 6-9 years of age had a history of decay in their baby or permanent teeth, compared to 45% of kids in the general U.S. population.
  • 59% of Native adults have gum disease;
  • Among all persons aged 55 years and older, nearly 75% have fewer than 20 natural teeth;
  • 78% of Native adults 35-44 years and 98% of elders (55 or older) have at least one tooth removed because of decay, trauma, or gum disease.
 
 
[i] Njau G and Yineman K, “Findings and Lessons from the 2014-2015 ND Oral Health Third Grade Basic Screening Survey,” ND Department of Health, (Presented at the Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health, May 16,
2016).


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