On Jan. 4 the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington State announced that it began offering its members the services of a
dental therapist, making the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community the first
tribe in the Lower 48 states to employ a dental therapist to provide certain
oral health services.
“There are too few dentists in Indian
Brian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). “We cannot stand by any
longer and allow Native people to continue to suffer tooth decay at a rate
three times the national average. We have developed a tribal approach to solve
a tribal issue. This solution will help our people immediately address their
oral health needs in ways that have not been possible until today.”
By age five, 75% of American Indians and Alaska Natives experience tooth
decay. Recent Federal statistics for Washington, Oregon and Idaho show that
Indian children suffer tooth decay at three times the national average.
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community program is modeled after the oral
healthcare delivery model used by Alaska Native communities, the dental health
aide therapy model. This past summer, a Swinomish Tribal member was sent to
Alaska to begin the two-year dental health aide therapy training.