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American Indian communities lack dental care due to dentist shortage
Updated: 5/4/2009 5:00:35 PM

American Indian communities lack dental care due to dentist shortage A crippling lack of Native American dentists means the dental health needs of those communities are not being met, according to an article in the Arizona Republic.

There are fewer than 150 American Indian dentists in the U.S., or about one for every 32,000 American Indians, Carol Grant, director of American Indian Health Professions at A.T. Still University, told the Republic. That number compares to one dentist for every 1,200 Americans in the rest of the population.

Frank Ayers, dean of student affairs at Creighton University's School of Dentistry told the newspaper that the key to providing better access to dental care in these communities is to recruit students from the communities themselves.

"If a student has a strong tribal affiliation when you bring them into the profession, they are much more likely to return to the reservation and help their people," Ayers said.

Last month, the ADA urged Congress to shore up the Indian Health Service's dentistry program in light of the upcoming retirement of the most experienced dentists working with the service.

High poverty levels among American Indian communities have also contributed to making access to proper dental care very difficult in the American Indian community.

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