Revealing the importance of culture in Latino dental health

August 9, 2012 By Kate Rauch
Maria Orellana, DDS, PhD, assistant professor in the UCSF School of Dentistry, is trying to understand what is preventing Latinos from getting the dental and orthodontic care other people are getting.

Maria Orellana, DDS, PhD, assistant professor in the UCSF School of Dentistry, has long observed that Latino parents are often more resistant to having their children get braces or retainers to straighten teeth than parents of other ethnicities. But beyond simply recognizing this trend, Orellana wants to know why.

“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?” she says.

In a recent preliminary study, Orellana confirmed what she already suspected — the importance of acculturation, or the process of becoming “Americanized,” on dental care.

A survey of 63 young Latinos between the ages of 8 and 17, and their , revealed that the more acculturated children and adults are, the greater importance they put on dental and orthodontic care.

Revealing the importance of culture in Latino dental health

“Here are kids that come into the clinic and they don’t want to smile,” she says. “It affects their self-confidence.” And perhaps not surprisingly, the more acculturated children were often at odds with their less acculturated parents, Orellana notes.

The survey, conducted at the UCSF clinic, asked about dental and orthodontic experiences and views, income, and the use of English, as a barometer of acculturation. Orellana compared responses between parents and their children, and compared levels of acculturation with dental experiences and attitudes. “In seeking treatment, socioeconomic status played a role but acculturation also played a role,” she says.

For help with the study’s statistical analysis, Orellana turned to the Consultation Services program managed by UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). Adept at conceptualizing research based on need and on running projects, Orellana says she needed assistance with the mathematical nitty-gritty of data analysis. “It’s great help to vet ideas with UCSF colleagues who are experienced in a field that I’m not an expert in. It’s a unique way of collaborating for practical results.”

In fact, Orellana uses CTSI’s Consultation Services to support much of her research, including work with statistics and study design, or simply to brainstorm. “It helps me expedite studies so I can complete them and get them published,” she says. It’s helping a great deal in the work I’m doing with Latino populations.”

Her study highlights the need for cultural sensitivity in efforts to improve care among Latinos, says Orellana, who plans to expand the research. “It’s very important to relate not only to the teenagers, but also to the parents.”

The parents, or caregivers, are part of the solution, because they are the decision-makers, Orellana adds. And for new-comers or the less acculturated, “having Spanish-speaking providers who can educate immigrants about the importance of oral health is key.”

More information: Recent preliminary study: iadr.confex.com/iadr/2010barce/webprogramcd/Paper133708.html

Related Stories

Unmet dental needs in Los Angeles children shown in study

May 9, 2011

In 2007, the death of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver from untreated tooth decay exposed the need for better dental care in Maryland families with limited resources. However, the problem ranges beyond a single state, researchers ...

Eyes are windows to more than a child's soul

September 1, 2011

Nearly 80 percent of what children learn during their first 12 years is through their vision. Though vision problems may seem easy to identify, they actually can be difficult for parents to discern. Still, parents need to ...

Recommended for you

Earliest evidence of dental cavity manipulation found

July 20, 2015

A large team of researchers with members from institutions in Italy, Germany and Australia has found what they claim is the earliest example of dental cavity manipulation. In their paper published in the journal Scientific ...

Researchers use light to coax stem cells to regrow teeth

May 28, 2014

A Harvard-led team is the first to demonstrate the ability to use low-power light to trigger stem cells inside the body to regenerate tissue, an advance they reported in Science Translational Medicine. The research, led by ...

Genetic signature reveals new way to classify gum disease

March 21, 2014

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have devised a new system for classifying periodontal disease based on the genetic signature of affected tissue, rather than on clinical signs and symptoms. The new ...

Scientists create candy that's good for teeth

December 3, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Dentists warn us that too many sweets can cause cavities. In fact, it's not candy, but bacteria on the tooth surface that cause tooth decay. If you reduce the amount of cavity-causing bacteria, the number ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.