Latino Life: Improving understanding of dental health

Poor dental health can affect your quality of life. Problem is, not everyone knows how complications can arise if you don't take care of your teeth.

Members of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State joined the National Oral Health 2020 Initiative funded by DentaQuest Foundation. One of the Oral Health 2020 goals is to improve the public perception of the value of oral health to overall health.

The Institute collected data at community clinics and community events on oral health inequity in the San Joaquin Valley and analyzed data to publish their latest report. The research focused on underserved and vulnerable populations. The research by CVHPI indicated:

Latino Spanish speakers have higher learning needs about their dental health than those who speak English.

Latino Spanish speakers who took the survey inside a community clinic have less knowledge of what is bad for their dental health than those that took the survey outside. This means that if you are Latino and you do not speak English you do not get the appropriate information of what is bad for your dental health.

When looking at the three factors (insurance type, language/ethnicity, and site where the survey was taken) researchers found that Latino Spanish speakers scored less knowledge of unhealthy behavior even when they had private insurance and scored lower when they were inside the clinic compared to Spanish speakers that took the survey outside the clinic.

This shows that the lack of knowledge of what is bad for your dental health is not a problem of the public insurance, but of lack of culturally, linguistically and age appropriate dental health information.

Hayam Megally is a trained pediatric dentist and health education specialist with CVHPI. She and Yesenia Silva, a research analyst with CVHPI were guests on Latino Life with host Graciela Moreno. Megally says we can all improve our dental health with more brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist.

This will help prevent serious problems like gum disease and cavities. People with poor oral health are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke and complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Visible signs of oral disease can also affect mental health and well-being.

The Central Valley Health Policy Institute will be the local host for the California Oral Health Network regional convening on Feb. 15, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Downtown Business Hub. There will be a discussion on the Oral Health State Plan with statewide representatives. This event is free and open to the public.

For more information on the oral health research visit or call (559) 228-2140.
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