Objectives The objectives of this study were to identify dental hygiene themes voiced by adults and teenagers of Mexican origin [or Mexican Americans (MAs)] and place these themes within the larger landscape of oral health and dental care perceptions. Methods Interviews with urban-based MAs were analyzed to identify barriers, beliefs, and behaviors influencing engagement in dental hygiene practices. Results Adult (n = 16, ages 33-52) and teenage (n = 17, ages 14-19) MAs reported themes pertaining to structural factors (financial and economic-related barriers, the dual challenges of reduced access to care vis-à-vis successfully navigating the dental care system, and the effects of reduced social support derived from migration) and to individual factors (different agendas between MAs and health systems for dental care utilization and indications for oral self-care, including limited dental hygiene instruction from professionals and larger impacts from school-based and mass media). Also, prior experiences with dental hygiene, prevention, and associated themes were characterized by a range of attitudes from fatalistic to highly determined agency. Good family upbringing was instrumental for appropriate dental hygiene, anteceding good oral health; and outlining a loose structure of factors affecting oral health such as diet, having "weak" teeth, or personal habits. Conclusions Themes from adults and teenagers in the Midwest United States were generally similar to other groups of MA parents and younger children. Dental hygiene was not salient relative to other oral health and dental care matters. Several opportunities for improvement of knowledge and enhancing motivation for dental hygiene practices were identified, both within and outside professional resources.
- dental hygiene
- health disparities
- oral health beliefs
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health