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A solution to address the oral health care crisis in New Mexico

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BY Michael Bird, Chair of the Kewa Pueblo Health Corporation/Board

New Mexico is a culturally rich and diverse state with 22 American Indian Tribes, Pueblos and Nations that exercise sovereignty over their land and people.
Our tribes have exercised these rights since time immemorial and prior to the Spanish, Mexican and United States governments.
Tribes have the inherent right to govern and protect the health and welfare of their citizens, and oral health care should be no different.
There is an oral health care crisis in our New Mexico tribal communities that must be addressed. Many tribes are located in rural areas, and most are in dental provider shortage areas.
Even those living in urban areas have little to no access to dental care.
Dental decay and disease are highly prevalent in the American Indian population. In one New Mexico Pueblo, 70 percent of adults suffer from untreated dental decay, and 58 percent of the children live with untreated dental decay.
These children are missing school and suffering needlessly. Adults miss work, and elders cannot eat nutritious foods.
This is needless suffering when a proven solution is readily available. By utilizing the dental therapist model all tribal, rural and underserved people throughout the state of New Mexico could benefit from much needed oral health care.


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