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University of Colorado Denver

Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health

Center for Native Oral Health Research

Oral Health Demographics of the American Indian Population


  • 5.2 million individuals identified as American Indian (1.7% of the US population)
  • American Indians live predominantly in the West (43%) and South (31%)
  • Approximately  40%  of  American Indians live on reservations
  • 560 American Indian tribes and communities recognized by US Government.  Tribes are legally sovereign nations.
  • American Indian groups reflect great cultural diversity, with differences in language, culture and customs
  • Median age is 29 compared to 35 for the US as a whole
  • Approximately 33% are under 18 (compared to 26% of overall US population)
  • 6% are 65 or older (12% for US)
  • 71% of American Indians have at least a high school education and 11% at least a baccalaureate degree, (compared to 80% and 24%, respectively)
  • 2006, the overall poverty rate for American Indians is 26%, compared to 12% of the US generally.

Health Disparities of the American Indian Population Compared with the General US Population

  • Life expectancy is 6 years less
  • Infant mortality rate is 21% higher
  • Injuries are 3.4 times higher
  • Tuberculosis is 4.4 times higher
  • Alcoholism is 7.5 times higher
  • Diabetes is almost 4 times higher
  •  CHD is 2 times higher
  • CVD rates are rising, and CVD appears to be more fatal
  • Higher mortality from all cancers than other groups
  • Higher risks:
  • Obesity in  WIC children is nearly double
  • Smoking is more prevalent (36% vs 23%)
  • Adults are less likely to report regular exercise (50% vs 37%) 

Oral Health Disparities among the American Indian Population

  • Results from IHS Oral Health Surveys show early childhood caries continues to increase
  • Children (ages 2-5) are 3+ times more likely to have untreated decay  (68% vs 19%)
  • Adults have significantly more periodontal disease
  • Nearly 25% of adults over 65 are completely edentulous.
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