Several health groups and Native American tribes are backing a bill to expand dental care across Oregon.
Senate Bill 1549 would 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.
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.
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