U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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  Quality of IHS Health Care

Performance Measures

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Health Topic: Dental
American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children and adolescents experience dental caries at a higher rate than the general U.S. population. Dental caries is an infectious, transmissible disease caused by mutans streptococci, lactobacilli, and other acid-producing bacteria. The bacteria that cause tooth decay are fueled by sweet foods and drinks and other fermentable carbohydrates like white crackers. Over time, the enamel breaks down, resulting first in a chalky white spot that then progresses to a cavity.

What are the benefits to having dental access?
AI/ANs have higher dental health needs as compared to non-Hispanic whites. Untreated tooth decay can lead to abscesses, infections, pain, dysfunction, and weight loss. Dental problems result in the loss of almost 2.5 million workdays each year. Access to dental care improves oral health as well as the overall health of AI/AN people.

What is the GPRA measure?
The GPRA measure is the percentage of IHS AI/AN patients who had a dental visit during the year.

How is IHS doing?
The United States long-term goal is for 49.0% of children aged 2 years and older who received a dental visit in the past 12 months by the year 2020 (Healthy People 2020). The IHS 2012 goal was 26.9% for the proportion of patients who receive dental services. IHS exceeded the goal by reaching 28.8%. The bars on the graph below show the rate has increased from 27% in 2002 to 28.8% in 2012. Prior to 2012, the decreases in this measure was mainly due to a large shortage of dentists in IHS. In fact in 2009, there was a 26% vacancy rate, which means that one-fourth less dentists are available to provide dental care. However, beginning in 2010 refusals was removed from the rates. So, the 2002-2009 rates cannot be compared with the 2010-2012 rates.

Percentage of IHS AI/AN Patients with Dental Visit  (IHS 2013 Goal is 26.9%)  NOTE: A higher score is better

View a table of this chart's data.

Year Percent
2002 27
2003 25
2004 24
2005 24
2006 23
2007 25
2008 25
2009 25
2010 25
2011 26.9
2012 28.8
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To see how IHS is doing on this measure at the Area (regional) levels, click here.