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The Indian Health Service (IHS) Dental Program has the broad mission to support American Indian individuals and groups as they strive to improve their oral health. Oral diseases continue to be a significant health problem in the American Indian population. IHS Dental Program objectives address: reducing dental decay in children; reducing periodontal disease in children and adults; and fluoridating community water systems.

Dental decay rates of American Indian children and adolescents are twice the national average. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is the key strategy in the fight against decay, including:

  • Caregiver counseling
  • Early dental exam (about one year)
  • Risk Assessment
  • Preventative measures (fluoride, sealants)

Periodontal disease has a high prevalence in American Indian populations. Strategies to improve periodontal health among both adults and children include:

  • Early education (Head Start, school based education)
  • Diabetes/Periodontal Disease Treatment Protocol
  • Chemotherapeutic measures
  • Discourage tobacco/alcohol use

Fluoride use is cornerstone upon which dental disease prevention programs are built. Sources of fluoride promoted include:

  • Fluoridated water supply
  • Topical fluoride and varnish application
  • Fluoridated toothpaste

In California there are currently nearly 50 dental clinics operated by tribal/urban health programs. The California Area Office provides technical assistance on dental issues through the Area Dental Officer. In addition, our office sponsors an Annual Dental Conference, meetings of the Dental Advisory Committee and sponsors additional continuing education courses.



Call or email the IHS CA Area Office Dental Consultant

Frequently Asked Questions for Dental

Answers to some of the most commonly asked questioned about the Dental Program.

Resources for Patients

Links and documents for dental patients. 

Resources for Professionals

Links and documents to support dental health professionals.