Global Service Learning - South Dakota

South Dakota

According to a study by the American Dental Association, 90% of the Lakota people on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota have chronic tooth decay or gum disease. This shocking statistic can be attributed to the reservation being located in one of the poorest counties in the US. Because most of the adults and children living on the reservation have never seen a dentist or learned about the importance of oral health, IUSD students are well received where they provide dental exams, x-rays, fillings, cleanings, extractions, prostheses, follow-up checkups, and education in preventative care. A distinct aspect of this trip includes treating patients from the tribal prison system, where students gain unique insight into health disparities experienced by socially disadvantaged populations right here in the US. Other activities students participate in include learning Native American history through cultural excursions to monuments and museums and participating in Native American customs.

IUSD students outside a clinic in Lakota territory

“A quote I have often heard throughout dental school is “you only learn a small percentage of the things you need to know after graduation.” After completing half of my clinical portion of dental school, I have realized this is a daunting yet accurate statement. This sense of urgency and my interest in the Native American culture sparked my interest in applying for the ISL trip to the Lakota Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Clinically, this was a very organized mission trip. Daily assignments were given, we had hands-on experience with sterilization, the student to faculty ratio was small, and students were able to learn and partake in the Lakota culture. With this being my third dental mission, I am very happy that I was given this opportunity for this specific trip. I was able to work with doctors, students, and equipment I rarely work with at school, as well as gain insight into the Lakota rituals.

iusd students in a clinic in Lakota territory 

 My most memorable experience was when I was able to complete my first endodontic procedure. I essentially had one-on-one interaction with the faculty, and his patience and teaching are something I will never forget. This trip allowed me to work with a population with very limited access to dental care, it gave me some confidence going into my fourth year of dental school and has provided essential knowledge and skills that will benefit me as a dental professional.  I hope to return to Rosebud in my future, whether as a provider or as an instructor to students like myself. I highly recommend this trip to students and dentists and am interested to see how many other groups will help and serve the Lakota population.”


Sarah Hasewinkle