One of the greatest health care challenges in Alaska is oral health disease among Alaskan Native populations. Children in particular are suffering from oral diseases at epidemic proportions. The saddest part of this story is that most of the disease and suffering can be easily prevented with access to basic dental care. A major roadblock to preventing that suffering is finding dentist's who practice in or are even travel willing to remote area's on America's last frontier.
The leaders of Alaska's Native Villages have partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help deal with oral health issues within their population. The training of local mid-level dental practitioners to help take care of basic dental treatments is a possible solution. Dental Therapists as they are called work under the supervision of dentists and currently provide access to approximately 35,000 Alaskan Natives scattered across remote area's of the frontier.
Prevention through education, diet, and technology are also area's that are under renewed scrutiny by local health authorities. Most of the villages lack access to a fluoridated water supply. That combined with a diet high in soda pop and sugar are major contributors to a high rate of tooth decay. Dental education programs have been put in place at the tribal level to educate children and parents about how they can prevent tooth decay and gum disease through diet, habits, and modified behavior in the home.
Access to needed dental services and Alaska Dental Insurance is not unique to just the frontier area's of the state of Alaska. An estimated ten thousand new dentists are needed nationally of help fill the current access gap that exists in dental care. Over 130 million American's nationwide are without any form of dental insurance and that number continues to rise on a daily basis.