News & Articles

Indian Health Service Solicits Tribal Consultation on Proposed Community Health Aide Program Expansion

Washington, DC – In a teleconference meeting today, Indian Health Service (IHS) Principal Deputy Director Mary Smith called on tribal leaders to provide feedback and input on an IHS draft policy statement that could expand the innovative Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) beyond Alaska. The CHAP program funds nursing aides, behavioral health aides, and in some cases, mid-level dental providers called Dental Health Aide Therapists (DHAT), along with other types of community health workers, to ensure residents of rural communities have access to health services. Currently, Alaska is the only IHS service area that has the program in place. Read more NCAI IHS Policy Community Health Aide Program

Where Dentists Are Scarce, American Indians Forge a Path to Better Care

LA CONNER, Wash. — Going to the dentist evokes a special anxiety for Verne McLeod. He grew up on the Swinomish Indian reservation here in northwest Washington State in the 1950s and vividly remembers the dentist who visited periodically. The doctor worked from a trailer, and did not bother with painkillers.

“They just strapped us down and drilled,” said Mr. McLeod, 70.

Poor oral health a has plagued tribal lands across the nation. Indian preschool-aged children had four times the rate of untreated tooth decay as white children in a recent study. Poverty, diet and a decades-long lack of access to good care on remote reservations compound the problem.

But Indians and health experts now see hope: If formally trained dentists are scarce, they ask, can people who master many of a dentist’s skills but lack the professional degree get the job done just as well?

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State Senator McCoy Calls for Washington State to Adopt Legislation Allowing Tribes to Hire Dental Therapists

THE year I started legislative efforts to bring basic dental-care services to native communities, more than 1,800 Indian children were born in Washington state.

That was 2006. Ten years later, the data show us that at least 75 percent of these children already will have experienced tooth decay and many more have experienced pain or had infections.

Generations of native children before have faced the same barriers to oral health care. For too many, their introduction to oral hygiene was waiting in line to have teeth pulled if a dentist happened to be visiting the reservation.

On Monday, that same piece of legislation will be in front of lawmakers in Olympia again. To be honest, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have tried to convince my colleagues that this is the right thing to do.

The idea is pretty simple — allow native communities to train and recruit dental therapists to help clear the backlog of an ongoing oral-health crisis. The research is alarming — one-quarter of Native Americans aged 35 to 44 years have fewer than 20 of their natural teeth.

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CDHCs Improve Access to Dental Care on Navajo Nation

September 4, 2015: News released by the American Dental Association

The Navajo Nation Department of Health has established a Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) Program to improve access to care for the oral health needs of the Navajo Nation. The CDHC training program is offered through the Central New Mexico Community College.

To Access Article: CDHCs Improve Access to Dental Care on Navajo Nation

Leads to Oral Surgery, Better Eating Habits for Preschooler

A routine oral health screening led to oral surgery and changes in family food choices for one Navajo Nation preschooler. An oral health screening sponsored by First Things First at a Tuba City preschool revealed extensive decay in one preschooler. The child’s family was referred to a dentist, who later performed oral surgery on the child due to the extent of the decay. Many people are not aware that decay in first teeth can cause problems with jaw and language development, speech delays, nutritional deficiencies and, if left untreated, absences when young kids enter school.

Preschool teacher Catrina Herbert said the child’s mother told her that, without the screening, she probably would not have taken the child to the dentist. Herbert said, since the screening, the preschooler’s family has committed to changing the child’s eating habits to prevent future dental decay and practicing good oral health. “It has changed their eating habits and the snacks (the child) brings to school,” Herbert said. To date, 3,158 oral health screenings have been completed and 2,829 preventative fluoride varnishes have been applied on young children as a result of this program.

Statewide Executive Board Meeting

On AIMG_8224pril 29th, 2014, the Arizona American Indian Oral Health Initiative held the first Statewide Executive Board Meeting at the Arizona Advisory Office on Indian Health Care in Phoenix, Arizona.

The historic Statewide Executive Board meeting was attended by eleven tribal representatives from seven American Indian tribal communities within Arizona.This meeting proved to be a huge success focused on improving and expanding increased awareness and treatment services among Arizona’s American Indian Communities. The participants agreed it is important to have collective efforts from the Arizona American Indian tribes, which is vital for positive and lasting impacts to improve oral health care in tribal communities.

Statewide Executive Committee Meeting

IMG_5943AAIOHI Convenes Statewide Executive Committee Meeting February 13, 2014 at the Arizona Dental Association Campus, 3193 N Drinkwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251.



Navajo Nation Oral Health Workshop and Roundtable

IMG_3978Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim, the Navajo Nation Division of Health, Arizona American Indian Oral Health Initiative, Arizona Dental Association, and the American Dental Association Convene at the Navajo Nation for the first Oral Health Workshop and Roundtable, March 13, 2014 in St. Michaels, AZ, Navajo Nation.