Confronting oral health disparities among American Indian/Alaska Native children: the pediatric oral health therapist

Am J Public Health. 2005 Aug;95(8):1325-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.061796. Epub 2005 Jul 7.


American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) children are disproportionately affected by oral disease compared with the general population of American children. Additionally, AIAN children have limited access to professional oral health care. The Indian Health Service (IHS) and AIAN tribal leaders face a significant problem in ensuring care for the oral health of these children. We discuss the development and deployment of a new allied oral health professional, a pediatric oral health therapist. This kind of practitioner can effectively extend the ability of dentists to provide for children not receiving care and help to confront the significant oral health disparities existing in AIAN children. Resolving oral health disparities and ensuring access to oral health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives is a moral issue-one of social justice.

MeSH terms

  • Alaska / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Care for Children*
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology
  • Dental Caries / ethnology*
  • Dental Caries / therapy
  • Dental Hygienists*
  • Health Services, Indigenous*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Oral Health*
  • Pediatric Dentistry*
  • Social Class
  • Social Justice*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Indian Health Service
  • Workforce