Providing Modern Dentistry for Folk Who Cling to Old Ways

An Indiana University team organized a series of one-day dental clinics in Northern Indiana to treat Amish children for tooth decay and other oral health problems, which traditionally have been more prevalent in the Amish community than in the general population.

The 44-month project, which began in July 1996, also provided Amish families with kits for testing the fluoride level of their well water and handed out fluoride supplements when needed.

In addition, the staff developed a dental health education curriculum for Amish schools and implemented a fluoride rinse program for Amish students.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Local Funding Partnerships national program.

During the course of the project, the Amish community built, equipped and began operating its own permanent pediatric dental facility. The clinic—located outside the small town of Shipshewana, just south of the Michigan border—provides low-cost treatment to non-Amish as well as Amish children.

Key Results

  • Project staff conducted 21 clinic sessions and, as of May 1999, had treated 665 patients.

  • Staff handed out 300 fluoride testing kits, 275 of which were sent to the state health department for analysis. They gave out 307 fluoride supplements to families with insufficient fluoride in well water.

  • Despite some parents' concerns about fluoride, nine schools involving a total of 379 students continued to participate in the weekly fluoride rinse program.