For years, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) has been bringing together stakeholders including Tribal leaders, Tribal health directors, Area Indian Health Boards, Tribal Epidemiology Centers, and public health leaders to explore solutions and develop recommendations to address oral health disparities and lack of access to oral health treatment and prevention services in Indian Country. Diseases of the mouth and access to oral healthcare are critical issues for many American Indians and Alaska Natives. In fact, American Indians and Alaska Native children ages 2-5 years have an average of 6 decayed teeth, while the same age group in the U.S. population has only one decayed tooth. Furthermore, half of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in what are considered “dental shortage areas.” Often, oral healthcare has been so under-prioritized, that people do not know just how important oral health is to overall health.
The NIHB’s Tribal Oral Health Initiative is a growing body of work that will include a toolkit, Tribal leader and Tribal healthcare administrator trainings, and, eventually, the Tribal Oral Health Agenda. Check back as we continue to grow this online compendium of resources on innovative programs and policies for Tribal governments to utilize in increasing access to safe and quality oral healthcare in Indian Country.