Indian Country Needs More Native American Dentists
June 27, 2022
Teague Rutherford (Aaniih and Nakoda) will begin his third year of dental school this fall at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health. He remembers clearly the moment he decided to become a dentist. He was nine years old and was receiving treatment from an off-reservation dentist. He loved how the dentist treated him with compassion.
It was a sharp contrast to the traumatic experiences at an Indian Health Service (IHS) clinic on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana where he grew up. He'd gone the reservation clinic, but the dentist did not numb him properly. He was in so much pain that his mother snatched him from the dental chair and brought him home.
Still in pain, his father took him back to the same doctor at the same clinic, and the result was, not surprisingly, the same. When Rutherford said he was in pain, the dentist told him to be quiet. His father brought him home without proper relief. Then his grandmother took him back to the same doctor at the reservation clinic, but the result was the same.