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.

Eriq, 19, Oglala Lakota Nation


Part of Well-being: “Having good oral health is part of complete well-being. It is especially important to Native youth since oral health status can either support or harm self-confidence and self-esteem.”

Social Effects: “Just having a healthy set of teeth can help somebody get a job. The extended family and community impact from that is giant.”

Community Understanding: “Developing health providers from our communities is important because they understand community dynamics, patients are more comfortable when receiving care from them, and they can serve as role models.”

Tribal Solutions: “Our tribal nation governments are the authority for making decisions concerning our well-being and for creating effective tools that address health inequity.”


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