Study finds widespread oral health problems among Navajo

July 8, 2014

A new study from Colorado School of Public Health shows that despite some modest improvements, poor oral health remains a major problem in the Navajo Nation and among American Indians overall.

"The among Native Americans is abysmal with more than three times the disease of the rest of the country," said Terrence Batliner, DDS, MBA, associate director of the Center for Native Oral Health Research at the School of Public Health. "The number one problem is access to care."

The study, published recently in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, showed that 69.5 percent of Navajo had untreated tooth decay. While that's better than the 82.9 percent in 1999, it's still unacceptably high.

"The percentage of children with untreated decay appears to have declined in the past decade, although it remains today substantially higher (three to four times) than national averages," the study said.

Batliner and his colleagues, including Patricia Braun, MD, MPH, who directed the study on the Navajo Nation, looked at 981 children in 52 Head Start classrooms on the reservation. Of those, 89.3 percent had oral disease in the past and 69.5 percent had untreated tooth decay.

That 69.5 percent of untreated decay compares with 20.48 percent among all other race and ethnic groups.

The Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the country, stretching over 25,000 square miles. Much of it is remote with 22 dental clinics serving 225,639 residents. The dentist-to-patient ratio is 32.3 dentists per 100,000 residents, among the lowest in the country.

The researchers found that half of all Native American children need to be treated in the operating room due to the severity of their .

To increase access to care, Batliner advocates the creation of dental therapists for the reservation.

"They learn how to do fillings and extractions along with providing preventative services," Batliner said. "This program has proved to be a raging success among tribes in Alaska. The quality of care is good."

The American Dental Assn. opposes dental therapists and has filed suit to block their use on tribal lands.

"The American Dental Association is fighting the idea of dental therapists," Batliner said. "But many of us perceive as a Native solution to a Native problem. Children and adults are suffering and this is a solution that can help."

Explore further: First analysis of dental therapists finds increase in access for children, low-income adults

Related Stories

First analysis of dental therapists finds increase in access for children, low-income adults

May 14, 2013
A new report assessing the economic viability of services provided by practicing midlevel dental providers in the U.S. shows that they are expanding preventive dental care to people who need it most: children and those who ...

Much room for improvement in access to preventive dental care in US

December 17, 2013
The uptake rate of preventative dental care increased over a ten-year period in the United States, but there remains a large disparity among ethnic groups, reports one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on the ...

Preventive services by medical and dental providers and treatment outcomes

June 3, 2014
The International and American Associations for Dental Research (IADR/AADR) have published a paper titled "Preventive Services by Medical and Dental Providers and Treatment Outcomes." Nearly all state Medicaid programs reimburse ...

Homeless most at risk of poor oral health

June 16, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—New research from The University of Queensland has highlighted poor dental health as one of the most detrimental, but least understood, aspects of homelessness in Australia.

Doctors should give toddlers fluoride treatments: US task force

May 6, 2014
(HealthDay)—Primary care doctors should start playing a more prominent role in dental care for children, according to new recommendations from the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Recommended for you

Nanodiamonds show promise for aiding recovery from root canal

October 23, 2017
People who undergo root canals may soon have a tiny but powerful ally that could prevent infection after treatment.

Research shows aspirin could repair tooth decay

September 8, 2017
Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have discovered that aspirin could reverse the effects of tooth decay resulting in a reduction in the need for fillings. Currently about 7 million fillings are provided by the NHS ...

New dental imaging method uses squid ink to fish for gum disease

September 7, 2017
Squid ink might be a great ingredient to make black pasta, but it could also one day make getting checked for gum disease at the dentist less tedious and even painless. By combining squid ink with light and ultrasound, a ...

A new dental restoration composite proves more durable than the conventional material

August 21, 2017
Fewer trips to the dentist may be in your future, and you have mussels to thank.

Small molecule inhibitor prevents or impedes tooth cavities in a preclinical model

August 10, 2017
University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have created a small molecule that prevents or impedes tooth cavities in a preclinical model. The inhibitor blocks the function of a key virulence enzyme in an oral bacterium, ...

Understanding genetic synergy in cleft palate

July 19, 2017
Like all of the individual elements of fetal development, palate growth is a marvel of nature. In part of this process, ledges of tissue on the sides of the face grow downwards on each side of the tongue, then upward, fusing ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

denturist
not rated yet Jul 09, 2014
Expect More of the American Dental Association and its State Dental Constituents

The needed action of progressive and innovative dental workforce models includes denturists, dental therapists, dental health aide therapists, and independent practices and boards for dental hygienists for better public health service. Open the flood gates of oral healthcare providers for all Americans across our nation, through more affordable and alternative oral health care delivery methods and models.

Americans need corporate ADA to quit muscling out trained and educated oral health care competitors

Gary W. Vollan L.D. State Coordinator, Wyoming State Denturist Association, wysda.org
DrChaz
not rated yet Jul 09, 2014
I just want to make everyone aware of a FANTASTIC opportunity to save money on your Dental treatment...

HealthCard4Free.com offers a NO-COST Dental Discount Plan valued at over $400, yet FREE to everyone in America.

Two retired dentists started it as a public-spirited venture & it has won numerous awards including Special Congressional Recognition!

It is totally FREE & saves you & your family 20-75% off your dental costs – just visit HealthCard4Free.com!

DrChaz

For additional healthcare advice – see my blog at DrChaz.com

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.