Roundtable outlines steps for overcoming oral health barriers facing the U.S. Hispanic community

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Together with Procter & Gamble brands Crest and Oral-B, the Hispanic Dental Association Foundation gathered a roundtable of leading dental professionals, oral health researchers and policy-makers to discuss why U.S. Hispanics lag behind other Americans in many aspects of oral health.

The roundtable — which took place during the Hispanic Dental Association's 2012 annual meeting, part of a multicultural oral health summit in Boca Raton, Fla. — discussed findings from a 2011 survey that was conducted by the HDAF (and sponsored by Crest and Oral-B), as well as ways to address Hispanics' barriers and knowledge gaps.

In the "Hispanics Open Up About Oral Health Care" survey, which pooled responses from 1,000 Hispanic adults and 1,000 adults from the general population ages 18 years and older who live in the continental United States. Highlights from this research included:

  • When asked if cavities will go away on their own if you brush regularly, almost one-third of Hispanics (30%) responded that they believe this statement is true or did not know the answer, when in fact the statement is false. About half or more Hispanics also incorrectly answered true/false statements or were uncertain about the importance of brushing versus flossing, whether bleeding is normal during brushing, and if mouthwash provides oral health benefits beyond just freshening breath;

  • Nearly 1-in-5 (18%) Hispanics have not visited the dentist at all in the past two years, compared to 12% of the general population; and

  • Approximately 6-in-10 Hispanics feel that a higher representation of Spanish-speaking and Hispanic dentists/hygienists in their community would help them "a lot" in achieving and maintaining better oral health.

"The survey was a critical starting point for raising awareness of the gaps in oral health knowledge and access to care among U.S. Hispanics. Now is the time to face these challenges head on," HDAF spokeswoman Sarita Arteaga said. "The experts agreed that while dental professionals may serve on the front line of oral health care, it is up to the entire community to take a more active role to ensure Hispanics have meaningful short- and long-term access to good oral care and education."

The results of the survey prompted roundtable participants to identify the following priorities:

  • Close the communication gaps between dental professionals and medical practitioners through continuing education programs and open dialogues at relevant meetings and professional conventions;

  • Educate patients on the consequences of poor oral hygiene and the benefits of home care and prevention by creating culturally relevant learning opportunities through community gathering centers; and

  • Identify local ambassadors to amplify the oral health message and serve as the coach in their community's oral health routine.

As part of their partnership, the HDAF, Crest and Oral-B will be making a donation to the Caridad Center on behalf of roundtable participants for their work to improve the state of oral health among U.S. Hispanics. The Caridad Center is a free dental clinic serving Palm Beach County's underprivileged population including local Hispanic families, the association said.