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.

Brayden, 21, St. Regis Mohawk_20151115_094953_1

Importance of Oral Health and Access to Care: “Oral health is of great importance to me. I would like my fellow youth to have the opportunity to have access to the dentists and orthodontists that I did. Oral health is one of the most important factors in anyone’s life because complications can occur if good oral health isn’t kept up.

Difficulty in Getting Care: “At times it is difficult to get dental care due to living in an area where not many dentist offices are present. For the ones that are present, the wait is usually 6-8 months due to the constant demand for dentist appointments.”

More Natives in the Dental Professions: “I would like to see more Native American dentists and orthodontists because having our own dentists and orthodontists who know us personally, would make more people inclined to get regular checkups.”

Increasing Public Education: “Another way to encourage people to get regular checkups would be more public attention and promotion directed towards maintaining proper oral health.”

Adding Mid-Level Providers to the Dental Team: “I don’t like that non-Natives try and block tribes from improving access to dental care by adding mid-level providers like dental therapists. I would like dental therapists to be available in my community.”

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