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On last week’s Native Bidaské (Spotlight), Native News Online Publisher and Editor Levi Rickert and health reporter Jenna Kunze welcomed Dr. Jessica A. Rickert, the first Native American female dentist.

February is National Children's Dental Health Month. Last week's episode is part of the Native News Health Desk reporting initiative covering health care in Indian Country. 

During the interview, Dr. Rickert discussed the need for early oral health care for Native American children on and off reservations.

“The most common chronic childhood disease in our country is dental disease,” Dr. Rickert said. “And that includes dental caries, which is cavities and gingivitis and periodontitis which is gum disease."

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Dr. Rickert also highlighted that oral health for children begins in the womb.

“Well, it actually starts in pregnancy,” Dr. Rickery said. “All of the building blocks for the baby come from the moms nutrition. So if the mom doesn't have healthy teeth, she is not getting the nutritional value out of her food that she's eating. And then of course that affects the Developing Child. And as a matter of fact, the first tooth bud begins to start three months in utero.”

As well, Dr. Rickert talked about the absence of sugar in traditional Native American diets before contact.

“They did hav sweeteners, but used it vey sparingly,” she said. “They had maple sap that they sometimes turned into maple syrup but not very much because it took so much energy to make it … they would collec honey too, but you can imagine trying to collect honey with bees buzzing around, it was hard for them to do that. We are oversaturating our physically and it isn’t beneficial to us, especially American Indian People.”

Watch the full episode on our YouTube channel, or view the embedded video below. 

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