Acculturation may play an important role in the amount and quality of dental care Hispanic children in the United States receive, suggests a preliminary study from the University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry.
The study was initiated because of the dental health disparities lead observed by study author Maria Orellana, DDS, PhD, assistant professor in the UCSF School of Dentistry. According to Orellana, Latino parents are traditionally more resistant when it comes to getting their children oral care, braces or teeth retainers, compared to parents of other demographics.
“I’m trying to understand what is preventing Latinos from getting the dental and orthodontic care other people are getting. Is it mainly economical or something else?” Orellana said.
To explore the reasons behind the limited access to dental care, Orellana conducted a survey of 63 Latinos between the ages of 8 and 17 and their parents. The questionnaire was designed to find out information on dental health views, income and language barriers in an effort to accurately access acculturation among Latino patients.
Once the information was compiled, Orellana compared the responses of children to the responses of parents, running the statistical numbers through the university’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
What the researcher found was that the more acculturated children and their parents were, the more importance they placed on preventative dental care. The reason for a lack of interest concerning oral health was linked to a lower level of acculturation.
“Here are kids that come into the clinic and they don’t want to smile,” said Orellana. “It affects their self-confidence.” She added that more acculturated children are often at odds with their parents when these issues arise.
In addition to acculturation, the study revealed socioeconomic status had an impact on the level of dental care received, too. Both factors indicated a need for culturally-sensitive dental programs, said Orellana, to make sure dental professionals relate to both the parents and the children and their understanding of dental care.
Because many parents and older generation Latinos might not be as acculturated, having Spanish-speaking providers capable of communicating about the importance of oral health is key to better dental care in the U.S. Hispanic community, said the study author.