Publications & Reports

Hard to reach communities or hard to access services? Migrant mothers' experiences of dental services.

Riggs E, Gussy M, Gibbs L, van Gemert C, Waters E, Kilpatrick N
Healthy Mothers Healthy Families Research Group, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria; Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victor


BACKGROUND: Good oral health is an important component of overall health which can help migrants settle in a new country. Infant oral health is intimately associated with maternal oral health knowledge and behaviours and therefore, encounters with dental services. This study aimed to explore the experiences of dental service use from the perspective of migrant mothers living in Melbourne, Australia. METHODS: A participatory research approach utilizing qualitative methods was adopted. Women from Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan participated. Semi-structured focus groups and interviews were conducted and thematic analysis of the data was completed. RESULTS: Focus groups (n = 11) and interviews (n = 7) were conducted with 115 women. Despite an understanding that visiting the dentist was important for promoting oral health, the first dental contact for both the women and their children was typically for emergency care. Accessibility, cost and waiting lists were identified as significant barriers to attendance. Problematic interpreter encounters often led to negative experiences which were compounded by a perception that public services provided poorer quality of care. CONCLUSIONS: Despite evidence of poorer oral health, migrant women face significant barriers in accessing mainstream dental services. Reorientation of such services, to address the accessibility and experience for migrant communities may help reduce oral health inequalities.


  • Journal: Australian Dental Journal
  • Published: 01/06/2014
  • Volume: 59
  • Issue: 2
  • Pagination: 201-207