Sonika Masih


Address: CSB 331
Phone: 507-389-1313

Barriers to oral health care: Communication with population of different cultural beliefs

by Sonika Masih, assistant professor, Department of Dental Education

Oral health plays an important role in the overall health of an individual. According to the Surgeon General’s report of oral health 2020, “Oral Health means much more than healthy teeth, and is integral to the general health and well-being of all Americans”.

There are many social and cultural barriers in America that create a gap between understanding the oral health beliefs of diverse cultural background. This creates complexities in health care’s ability to influence oral health.

Effective communication regarding oral health depends on health literacy of the patient and the cultural competence of the healthcare provider. Being culturally competent means understanding person’s cultural beliefs and how it impacts their oral health.

Overlooking patient’s cultural beliefs may lead to distrust between patient and provider resulting in noncompliance to treatment regimen. Effective patient and provider communication results in greater patient satisfaction, better compliance by patient, and good oral health outcomes.

Service learning is one way to work with multicultural underserved population. Community based dental education is the way to prepare oral health providers who are culturally competent and understand the barriers of the people from different cultures and social backgrounds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians and Alaska Natives generally have the poorest oral health of any racial and ethnic groups in the United States”.

Dental hygienists contribute to comprehensive health care of an individual. Being efficient in communicating with individuals of different cultural beliefs will help them build trust resulting in more compliance with the treatment, leading to better oral health.

With increases in a culturally diverse communities there is a need for emphasizing more on cross cultural communication skills education earlier in curriculum. With service learning and effective communication, health care outcomes can be improved among patients with different cultural beliefs.


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