December 2009

Volume 26, Issue 4

Rural Mexican immigrant parents’ interpretation of children’s dental symptoms and decisions to seek treatment

Authors: S. Horton J.C. Barker
doi: 10.1922/CDH_2320Horton06

Abstract

Objective: Mexican-origin children have higher rates of decay and lower dental utilization rates than children from all other racial/ethnic groups. Different cultural groups’ interpretations of dental symptoms illuminate their different decision-making process about seeking care. Through ethnography in a small rural U.S. city, we examined low-income Mexican immigrant caregivers’ interpretations of their children’s dental symptoms and evaluations of the need for treatment. Basic Research Design: We conducted 49 in-depth interviews with 26 Mexican immigrant caregivers about their perceptions of their children’s dental symptoms, and observations of five such caregivers’ help-seeking episodes and 30 other caregivers’ presentation of their children’s symptoms at dental clinics. All interviews and fieldnotes were analyzed qualitatively through a series of readings and codings. Results: A conceptual model of caregivers’ decision-making processes was developed. Most caregivers deduced the health of teeth from visible appearance, and thus children’s complaints of pain alone were often ineffective in triggering a dental visit. Caregivers often delayed treatment because they viewed their children’s oral disease as mere “stains” requiring cleaning rather than as bacterial infections requiring restorative treatment. Parents appeared to confuse carious “stains” with fluorosis stains common in rural Mexico. Conclusions: Even when Mexican immigrant caregivers recognize a dental problem, they often misinterpret it as a “stain.” Caregivers’ interpretations of decay were shaped by their lack of experience with children’s decay in rural Mexico. Oral health education programs should help rural immigrant caregivers distinguish between “stains” and “cavities,” and understand the heightened oral hygiene requirements of the cariogenic diet in industrialized countries. Key words: Dental help-seeking, Early Childhood Caries, ethnography, immigrants, Latino/Hispanic children, low income, oral health education, parental health beliefs and behaviors, rural

£10 single article

Other articles in this issue

Article Pages Access
Editorial - Beyond water fluoridation; the emergence of functional foods for oral health 194-195 £10 single article
Book Review 196-196 £10 single article
Sense of coherence associates with oral and general health behaviours 197-203 £10 single article
Evaluation of the direct and diffusion methods for the determination of fluoride content in table salt 204-210 £10 single article
Fluoride toothpaste utilization behaviour among preschool children in Perlis, Malaysia 211-215 £10 single article
Rural Mexican immigrant parents’ interpretation of children’s dental symptoms and decisions to seek treatment 216-221 £10 single article
Assessment of HIV/AIDS awareness among 500 patients referred to the Ankara University Faculty of Dentistry 222-226 £10 single article
Professional charges not reimbursed to dentists in the US: evidence from Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, 1996. 227-233 £10 single article
Quality of life in patients with dental conditions: comparing patients’ and providers’ evaluation 234-238 £10 single article
Understanding politics? Some lessons from Swedish dentistry. 239-243 £10 single article
Factors influencing the need for dental care amongst the elderly in the Republic of Ireland 244-249 £10 single article
The periodontal health of Nepalese schoolchildren 250-256 £10 single article

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