OBJECTIVES: Investigate the relationship between sociodemographic variables and oral health knowledge and behaviors of American Indian (AI) parents as the initial step in a program aimed at reducing caries experience among AI children.
METHODS: Survey data were collected from a sample of 147 AI parents of children ages 0-7 years who are residents of a Northern Plains reservation. Questions addressed sociodemographic variables for parents/their children and parent oral health knowledge and behavior. Overall knowledge was measured as percentage of items answered correctly. Overall behavior was measured as percentage of items reflecting behavior consistent with accepted oral health recommendations. Oral health knowledge and behaviors, and the relationship between them, were evaluated across groups defined by quartiles.
RESULTS: Parent sociodemographic variables were not significantly associated with behavior scores. Female gender, higher level of education, and higher income were significantly and positively associated with mean knowledge scores. Behavior and knowledge scores were significantly correlated. On average, survey participants identified the best answer for 75 percent of knowledge items and engaged in 58 percent of optimal oral health behaviors. Participants in higher oral health knowledge quartiles had greater adherence with recommended oral health behaviors than those in lower quartiles.
CONCLUSIONS: Surveyed AI parents had reasonably high levels of knowledge about oral health and caries prevention for their children but engaged at relatively lower levels in parental behaviors necessary to promote oral health. Strategies focused on behavior change, rather than knowledge alone, may be most likely to affect oral health outcomes for AI children.