Native Youth Voice: Perspectives on Oral Health

The Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) is dedicated to improving the health, safety and overall well-being of Native American Youth through communication, policy development and advocacy. We consistently hear from young people that lack of dental care is a serious issue and top priority for them. According to data from the US Health Resources and Services Administration and Census Bureau, fifty percent of Native youth live in designated dental shortage areas.

As part of a collaborative initiative to address the dental care access needs of Native youth and their communities, CNAY is highlighting the voices of Native youth about access to dental care. Below is a Native youth’s perspective on this issue.


Littlebear, 22, Mescalero Apache Nation

LittlebearValuing Good Oral Health: “Oral health is important in regard to speaking, passing on traditions, singing, and praying.”

Access to Care: “In being from a rural community not having access to quality dental care is a certainty. We deserve quality dental care like other US citizens to keep our bodies and cultures healthy.”

Making Compromises: “The cost of fixing our teeth is one thing that makes our people afraid to go to the dentist. Being healthy should not be a compromise we have to make to in order to pay for expenses necessary for us to live.”

Tribal Solutions: “It would be great to have dental providers from my community because we could form a relationship with them. They would be persistent and genuine in caring for my people. That goes a long way.”

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