dental health aide therapist | KNKX

dental health aide therapist

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The federal government has denied a state request for tribes to qualify for Medicaid funding to pay for care done by mid-level providers known as dental health aide therapists. The Washington State Health Care Authority is appealing that decision.

Mark Arehart / KNKX

Access to dental care on reservations has been a problem for decades. In an effort to address the issue, Washington state gave tribes the go-ahead last year to hire mid-level providers known as “dental health aide therapists.”

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The rate of tooth decay among Native Americans is higher than any other population. And now, tribes across Washington state will be able to use federal money to hire dental health aide therapists.

Mark Arehart / knkx

Staff from the dental clinic on the Swinomish Reservation will be in front of state lawmakers this week. This will be the sixth time the tribe is asking for the state’s approval to fund certain dental services. And tribal leaders say they may have a shot.

Mark Arehart / KPLU

The rate of tooth decay among Native Americans is higher than any other population. While the dental community agrees it’s a major health crisis, they can’t reach consensus on how to solve the problem.

Ariel Van Cleave / KPLU

 

On the Swinomish Reservation in Washington’s Skagit Valley, one full-time dentist serves 3,000 patients. While it’s an improvement from years past when a rotating list of dentists would visit the tribe, it’s still not enough to treat the high number of people with rotting teeth. Tribal leaders are calling the current situation a “health crisis.”

Ariel Van Cleave / KPLU

 

Rotting teeth, a fear of the dentist’s drill, long lines out the clinic door: These challenges are facing the Swinomish Tribe.

For decades, dentists would visit the reservation once a month. And if you ask tribal member Aurelia Bailey what that was like, she says it was “horrific.”