Objective: To identify barriers and beliefs influencing oral health and dental care-seeking among Mexican-Americans. Research Design: Interviews and Likert-scale survey questions were utilized to explore urgent and preventive dental care-seeking, oral hygiene habits and lifestyle practices. Thirty-three interviews were conducted with 16 adults (ages 33-52), and 17 adolescents (ages 14-19). Results: Teens identified the same main barriers to accessing dental care as adults: high cost, financial limitations and lack of insurance. Most MexicanAmericans agreed with the belief that everyone will need urgent dental treatment and the majority believed that going to a dentist in private practice instead of the Emergency Room was important. Although adults recognized the importance of preventive dental care, half reported being unlikely to seek such care while half of teens reported that they were likely to do so. Adults reported relying equally on themselves and on peers to make dental care decisions, while teens mostly depended on others to make decisions about urgent and preventive care. Virtually all respondents believed regular brushing to be important and many flossing too. A major barrier to flossing was being unsure of the proper technique. Another barrier to better oral health was not having seen messages encouraging changes in lifestyle. Conclusions: This study found that Mexican-American teens and adults may experience oral health similarly. Teens do not have more positive oral health beliefs and encounter mostly the same barriers to care as adults. Key words: Mexican-American, oral health, health services needs and demand, dental care, oral hygiene, toothbrushing, adolescent, USA
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