Cultural factors and children's oral health care: a qualitative study of carers of young children

Irene V Hilton, Samantha Stephen, Judith C Barker, Jane A Weintraub
Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 2007, 35 (6): 429-38

OBJECTIVE: This qualitative study sought to identify cultural beliefs, practices and experiences that influence access to preventive oral health care for young children from different racial and ethnic groups.

METHODS: Four to six focus groups in each of the African-American, Chinese, Latino and Filipino communities in San Francisco, California were included in the study. Participants were carers of children aged 1-5 years. The 22 groups (n = 177 participants) were stratified by carer's age and, except in the African-American community, by whether US or non-US born. Sessions were conducted in different languages as needed.

RESULTS: Lack of knowledge and beliefs about primary teeth created barriers to early preventive care in all groups. In Chinese groups more than others, health beliefs regarding disease causation and prevention influenced access to preventive dental care. In all groups, multiple family carers, especially elders, influenced access to preventive care. Dental fear, whether derived from prevailing community beliefs or personal negative dental experiences, greatly influenced attitudes regarding accessing preventive care.

CONCLUSION: There are both similarities and differences between racial/ethnic groups in how cultural beliefs and experiences influence young children's access to dental care and how it might be improved.

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