ADEA State Update

Dental Therapist Hired by Native American Tribe in Washington

(State Policy, Alternative Workforce Models, Dental Hygiene Therapy, Dental Therapist) Permanent link   All Posts

operatory3On 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 Country,” said 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.

Duggan Dental