The ADA released the following statement regarding a recent court decision to preempt the Alaska State Dental Practice Act.

“We’re plainly disappointed with this ruling,” said Kathleen Roth, DDS, ADA president. “Our only objective in this litigation has been to improve access to high-quality oral health care in remote areas of Alaska, to ensure that dental personnel providing this care are properly trained, and to maximize patient safety. Our pledge to the tribal community, both in Alaska and elsewhere in the United States, is that this judgment will not deter us from joining them in fighting for the public health resources that will ensure that Alaska Natives have access to the same dental care as all other Americans. As the Native American/Alaska Native community well knows, the ADA has a long history of advocating for Indian Health Service dental programs, and those efforts will continue.”

The issue argued before the state Superior Court, Anchorage, was whether the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), a federal law governing the provision of health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives, preempts Alaska state law that requires those who perform invasive, permanent, and irreversible dental procedures to be properly trained and licensed. The ADA believes that Congress never intended the IHCIA to remove these important safeguards in connection with the dental services provided to Alaska’s native population and that the state law does not conflict with the IHCIA.

“While we respectfully disagree with the court and will have to review our legal options,” Roth continued, “we want to work with the ANTHC and other interested parties to develop the means to get sufficient dentists into remote Alaska to meet the complex dental needs of Alaska Natives.”