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.

Alayna, 24, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

AlaynaAccess to Dental Care: “In my community the only time we can be seen by a dentist is to stand in line before the sun comes up on Monday mornings, and even then we are not guaranteed care.”

Quality of Care: “I want my children, family, and community to have a doctor or dentist they can trust and count on to be there long term. I want our dental and health care clinics to have adequate equipment and experienced professionals to help our people. These simple needs are not being met.”

Oral Health Care as a Priority: “Increasing access to health care needs to be a priority for tribal leaders and policy-makers. Not just putting a Band-Aid on problems, which is how many programs now operate, but changing the root of the problems.”

Tribal Solutions: “There is a high turnover rate of medical professionals, including dentists, and this perpetuates disadvantage for our people. Many times the community doesn’t invest in doctors or dentists because they don’t invest in us. There is no trust built there. If we had health providers from our own community we would be a healthier community.”


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