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Advocates Say Oregon Bill Would Bring Dental Care To More Underserved Populations

Brian Bull

Several health groups and Native American tribes are backing a bill to expand dental care across Oregon.

Senate Bill 1549would authorize the permanent licensing of dental therapists. This would boost the number of specialists in areas short on dental professionals, namely rural and reservation communities.

Federal health data shows 72 percent of Native children have untreated tooth decay, twice the national average.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Smile! It's time for your check-up.

Kelle Little, Health and Human Services Director for the Coquille Indian Tribe, says this has short-term and long-term consequences.  

“Chronic infection in the mouth, which we see chronic inflammation in the body.  Which increases one’s risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke," she explains. 

"Many, many years ago taking care of the mouth was removed from the rest of the body by the dental profession but now we’re integrating how important that piece is.”

Little adds only 40 percent of Oregon dentists accept Medicaid which limits access to proper care for many tribal families.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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