IHS Dental Impressions
September 2018
IHS Dental Health Professional with patient and parents.
A Unique Place to Practice Dentistry

The Indian Health Service (IHS) Division of Oral Health (DOH) offers dental health professionals an opportunity to practice dentistry within interdisciplinary team environments serving American Indian and Alaska Native patients. IHS dentists work in some of the most scenic, recreationally abundant and culturally rich areas of the continental United States and Alaska. Indian health careers — Opportunity. Adventure. Purpose.

How IHS Promotes Quality in its Dental Programs
Three questions: 1. What are we trying to accomplish? 2. How will we know that a change is an improvement? 3. What changes can we make that will result in an improvement? These 3 questions have arrows pointing to and from the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle.

Ensuring and improving the quality of health care services, including dental services, is built into the IHS mission of raising “the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level,” according to CAPT Timothy Ricks, Deputy Director of the IHS Division of Oral Health (DOH).

Dr. Ricks notes that IHS dentists maintain the standards of a high-quality dental program through a robust continuing dental education program that awarded more than $7.2 million worth of training last year through 245 different courses.

Many IHS dentists have learned basic quality improvement principles through IHS’ Improving Patient Care (IPC) program, which teaches a quality improvement methodology called the Model for Improvement, developed by the Associates in Process Improvement. In this model, three basic questions are asked:

  1. What are we trying to accomplish?
  2. How will we know whether a change is an improvement?
  3. What changes can we make that will result in improvement?

Dr. Ricks says this model is used on a daily basis in many of the 404 IHS, Tribal and Urban Indian dental programs to improve the delivery of care to patients and test changes using the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle.

Examples of PDSAs performed routinely by dentists include testing proposed ways to improve sealant retention, broken appointment rate reduction procedures, patient compliance with dental instructions, endodontic therapy success, post-surgical complication reduction and others.

On its own, DOH has established numerical standards for quality of care issues that can be measured, says Dr. Ricks. These include evaluation of measures such as services per patient visit, the proportion of patients receiving dental exams, the proportion of patients completing planned treatment, broken appointment rates and other measures.

Regional dental leadership, called Area Dental Officers, in conjunction with DOH, conduct comprehensive program reviews routinely in IHS, Tribal and Urban dental programs to evaluate quality issues such as credentialing and privileging, chart documentation, infection control, hazard communications, radiology safety, local clinic policies and protocols, the local dental quality improvement program, employee development, prevention projects and clinical efficiency and productivity.

When you join DOH as a dental professional, you can be assured that you’re part of an organization that provides the best care for our patients — and sustained, continuous quality improvement is one of the ways we accomplish our mission!

Browse our list of current openings!

Start Preparing Now for an IHS Dental Externship!
IHS Applications Are Open - Dental Externship Program Apply Now Advertisement

If you’re a third-year dental student in search of a rewarding and unique training opportunity, the IHS Division of Oral Health (DOH) Dental Externship Program can provide you with the perfect opportunity to:

  • Gain valuable clinical experience working in an Indian health facility!
  • Develop your clinical skills under expert supervision!
  • Contribute to an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals!

DOH dental externships take place during the summer before your final year of dental school. As a dental extern, a hands-on experience in public health dentistry will enable you to make an informed career choice in the months before graduation. Externships also provide you with an opportunity to establish relationships with mentors and dental health professionals who could open doors for your career.

You'll also have an opportunity to decide whether your calling is working in a non-typical clinical setting and providing much-needed care to a medically underserved patient population. Work alongside dedicated, culturally competent dental teams in state-of-the-art facilities while learning about IHS’ excellent pay and benefits, as well as eligibility for financial freedom through the IHS Loan Repayment Program (LRP).

The application cycle reopens January 2019 — but we suggest you start preparing your application materials now! Here are some tips:

Pre-Application Recommendations

You can complete the following steps now to help minimize the time it takes to complete the application process:

  1. Read the Dental Externship Program Quick Reference Guide (QRG) prior to starting the application. The application contains a quiz covering all travel information.
  2. Compose your answer to the following question in a Word document using no more than 2,500 characters: Please tell us why you are interested in an IHS Dental Externship. (You will copy and paste your answer from the Word document into question No. 10 of the application.)
  3. If you have completed items 1 and 2 above, the application will take 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Please ensure you have set aside that amount of time prior to beginning the application.
Invite IHS to Speak at Your Dental School!

Did you know that a staff member of the IHS Division of Oral Health (DOH) can come to your school to speak to dental students about Indian health career opportunities? We often speak at official dental school functions, student organization meetings and other events, as well as participate in webinars or conference calls.

We can discuss topics including:

Please reach out to Dr. Timothy Lozon for more information.


IHS dental professionals working on patient.

IHS dental professional smiling.

Job Opportunities

Whether you’re beginning your dental career, seeking a licensed pediatric dental specialist position or considering a career move to Chief Dental Officer, we may have the right match for you.


Financial Freedom

Experience the financial freedom that comes from the IHS Loan Repayment Program (LRP) or the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) LRP. Live and work in some of the most scenic areas of the country while paying down your dental school debts.


Contact Us

Our dental recruiters and externship program team are here to help. Contact us if you have questions about current openings, the externship program or other areas of Indian health dentistry.

Indian Health Service
Division of Oral Health
5600 Fishers Lane
Mail Stop: 08N34 A&B
Rockville, MD 20857
Phone: 800-447-3368

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Opportunity. Adventure. Purpose.
Careers with the Indian Health Service
The policy of the IHS is to provide absolute preference to qualified Indian applicants and employees who are suitable for federal employment in filling vacancies within the IHS. IHS is an equal opportunity employer.

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