Background: Factors such as low income and minority status are associated with poor oral health. Research on oral care has shown that Latinos are less likely to believe in the need for regular professional dental care, more likely to have misperceptions about oral health, and less likely to have access to dental care than the general population. To date, minimal research has explored the oral health experiences of Latinos.
Objective: This study examined oral health related attitudes, beliefs, practices, and decision making in Latino families with and without children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from Los Angeles, CA.
Methods: As part of a larger qualitative study on in-home oral care, 18 Latino families with a child aged 6-12 (n=8 neurotypical, n=10 ASD; n=32 caregivers) were interviewed twice for approximately 1-2.5 hours each session. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed by 3 coders using in vivo and thematic coding schemas to identify patterns throughout the data.
Results: The themes Vulnerability/Mistrust, “We have to put our children first”, and Acculturation/Cultural Practices summed how the Latino families discussed oral care. Parents described fear of the dentist, due to their ethnic minority status, as a key factor inhibiting receipt of dental care. Parents also discussed prioritizing the dental needs of their children over their own oral care needs due to costs. Families also shared cultural influences on oral care habits that were learned from their varied upbringing. Additionally, the interplay between Latino cultural values, access to care, and oral health related decisions emerged as an important sub-theme.
Conclusion: Latinos’ experiences of oral health related occupations are influenced by factors related to their cultural identities, family structures, and barriers to oral care. In presenting this data, we aim to facilitate a discussion regarding the relationship of culture to oral care experiences in the Latino population.