Pre-Pandemic and Recent Oral and Medical Health Care Utilization among Young American Indian Children and Their Caregivers

Steven D. Barger, Christine Kirby, Heather Thomas, Carolyn Camplain, Sara Young, Gerlinda Morrison, Stephanie Hyeoma, Skyler J. Bordeaux, Chloe Horowitz, Julie Baldwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children from diverse ethnic groups are at significantly increased risk for dental caries. In particular, American Indian (AI) children have the highest incidence of detal caries of any ethnic group. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically restricted health care access, including preventive oral health care. Given this context, it is unclear whether or not preventive oral health care for AI children has resumed since lockdown. To address this question, we surveyed adult AI caregivers (N = 152) of children aged 0–5 years, assessing recent (12-month) and pre-COVID (for caregivers of children aged 3–5 years) preventive oral and medical health services. We also examined medical health care access and utilization among caregivers. Among children aged 3–5 years old, both pre-pandemic and past year medical care utilization were generally high (80 and 90%, respectively) as was any oral health care utilization (64 & 78%, respectively). Oral health check-ups were more common over the last year (62%) compared to pre-COVID (44%). Recent health care utilization among children 1–5 years old in this sample were generally comparable to national estimates, except for higher reported preventive medical care (99% vs. 87.6%, respectively) and higher preventive oral care (96% vs. 59.6%, respectively). More caregivers reported delaying or foregoing needed health care due to COVID (28–38%) versus due to cost (8–17%). In this survey of AI caregivers, recent child preventive health care utilization was high, and changes in utilization following the lockdown phases of the pandemic were comparable for oral and medical health care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Community Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Child
  • Dental care for children
  • Health care utilization
  • oral health
  • Preventive dentistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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