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ADA President Urges Congress to Shore Up IHS Dental Care
Date:3/27/2009

WASHINGTON, March 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- American Dental Association (ADA) President John S. Findley, D.D.S., told the U.S. House Committee on interior appropriations charged with funding the Indian Health Service (IHS) that the IHS dental workforce, already understaffed, faces a significant number of retirements by the most experienced dentists. He pointed out that this occurs at a time when "childhood caries and periodontal disease among diabetics are rampant."

Dr. Findley said that nearly 65 percent of the agency's dental specialists are eligible for retirement this year. He asked the subcommittee to increase the program by $1 million to train new specialists and to ensure that future budgets include that funding. Dentists who have completed residencies in pediatric dentistry, oral surgery and other dental areas provide badly needed advanced oral health care.

According to a 2007 IHS audit, only 36 percent of diabetes patients had at least one dental visit within the past year. Diabetics with severe periodontal disease have a more difficult time controlling their blood sugar than diabetics without periodontal disease.

The ADA president also requested a "stronger role" for the director of the IHS Division of Oral Health and that funds be specifically allocated to the director of the IHS headquarters Division of Oral Health to ensure they are used exclusively for dental residencies.

Dr. Findley was unequivocal about the need to provide oral health care to Indian children.

"Approximately 79 percent of Indian children 2 to 5 years old have dental decay -- a level that far exceeds other ethnic groups," he said. "The ADA would like to see this eradicated, and within five years, see that every Native American child is caries free."

The rates of decay among 2- to 5-year-old white children is 19 percent; for black children 29 percent, and for Hispani
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SOURCE American Dental Association
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