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News Americas

Asian immigrants in the U.S. do not use dental services as often as non-Hispanic whites. (Photograph: KPG Payless/Shutterstock)
0 Comments Jan 30, 2017 | News Americas

Asian immigrants make low use of dental services

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NEW YORK, USA: In contrast to non-Hispanic whites, racial and ethnic minorities often face greater problems with regard to access and utilization of dental care services. A new study focusing on factors determining dental visiting patterns of Asians in the U.S. has shown that length of stay in the country is a significant factor affecting dental service utilization among this group.

Although the Asian population is the second fastest-growing group in the U.S., little research on Asian immigrants and the various nationalities of this category has been done. In order to address this issue, the researchers evaluated health care data of 2,948 dentate adult Asian immigrants. They studied whether acculturation, measured by length of stay in the U.S., English language proficiency and U.S. citizenship, had affected their dental visiting patterns in the previous 12 months.

They found that, overall, Asian immigrants, with the exception of Filipinos, made significantly low use of dental services. Despite cultural and attitude differences toward dental care within Asian subgroups, enabling factors like affordability, familiarity with health care system and oral health status had important effects on dental service utilization. The most prominent factor affecting utilization proved to be dental insurance coverage.

English language proficiency, however, which is often considered the main barrier to health care services, was not a significant correlate of having a dental visit. However, length of stay in the U.S. (≥ 5 years) appeared to be the most significant factor among Asians.

“We hypothesize that this could be because longer stays in the U.S. allow for immigrants to gain improved familiarity with health care system, increases health literacy, and social support networks,” said Dr. Huabin Luo, assistant professor at the East Carolina University Department of Public Health, North Carolina, who led the study, together with Prof. Bei Wu from the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

The researchers concluded that health care professionals need to pay more attention to providing oral health education among newer immigrants and that interpreting services may be necessary. There is an apparent need for greater dental care promotion among these groups, especially in the beginning stages of their arrival, they said.

The study, titled “Acculturation and dental service use among Asian immigrants in the U.S.,” was published in the December 2016 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Data for the study was obtained from the 2013 and 2014 National Health Interview Survey.

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