Compared to other Americans, the American Indian and Alaska Natives experience lower health status such as lower life expectancy and higher disease rates. These issues could be due to inadequate education, poverty, discrimination of health services, and cultural differences. On average, Alaska Natives and American Indians live 5.2 years less than other populations. They also die from tuberculosis, alcoholism, diabetes, homicide, and suicide at higher rates than the rest of Americans do. These health disparities of Alaska Natives are troubling since most Americans appreciate a high health status.
One of the most common childhood diseases in the United States is dental decay. Children across the United States miss almost 52 million school hours each year due to oral health problems. Not only are children missing school, but dental problems can cause eating, learning, and speech problems for them. Although dental decay preventatives such as fluoridated water, toothpastes, supplements, topical rinses, and dental sealants have decreased the degree of decay in children, low-income families are still excessively affected by dental decay today. Compared to the children in the lower 48, Alaska Native children experience 3 to 4 times the amount of dental decay. Also, the dental labor force in Alaska is getting older with more than 25% of its licensed dentists 55 years of age or older and 39% are between the ages of 45-54. Read more about child and adolescent oral health in Alaska.