Alaska Natives: Dental Care Without A Dentist

Increasing reliance upon Western diets has exacerbated problems with tooth decay in Native Alaska. Soda pop arrives by the crate to villages only reachable by plane, boat or snowmobile. Public water supplies of fluoridated water is rare. The underfunded Indian Health Service has had chronic difficulty hiring dentists to serve in remote communities. Even if they come, they often leave. Alaska Native children suffer from tooth decay that has been estimated at rates more than twice as high as other American children. In Alaska, complete tooth loss by the age of 20 is not uncommon.

A solution? Dental therapists who can do most of the care people need and provide education. However, the Alaska Dental Society is in opposition. They placed a full-page advertisement featuring a snarling bear and this copy: “2nd class dental care for Alaska Natives deserves a ferocious reaction – No Alaskan should face irreversible dental surgery by an unlicensed dental therapist with no dental degree.” Read more.

How do you provide dental care to this community without a dentist?

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