Today is Cinco de Mayo! It’s a Mexican-American day of celebration. Many Hispanics in America enjoy this holiday with great pride. So in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, we thought it only fitting to address dental offices and the growing need for Spanish outreach in the health profession.
In general, Hispanics visit the dentist less often than most other ethnic groups in America. Some would suggest it is because of low-income. And while it is true that most Hispanics have emigrated from underprivileged countries, studies have shown that Hispanics who work full time can fully afford the costs of routine dental care. So why are they visiting the dentist less often?
So, if not income, why is this problem occurring? The answer lies in the communication between English dentists and Hispanic patients. These communication barriers include:
- Language. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to communicate efficiently and clearly when the person you’re speaking to may not understand. For both English dentists and Hispanic patients, this has become a prevailing issue. Because of the language barrier, Hispanics…
- Are less likely to ask questions about their dental health.
- Have trouble understanding the information the dentist tells them. Because of this, they may answer questions incorrectly, causing any existing complications to deepen.
- May not feel comfortable or at ease.
In a study done by the HDA (Hispanic Dental Association), about 60% of Hispanics stated that they felt having a Spanish-speaking dentist or hygienist would greatly help them in maintaining good oral health.
- Lack of Knowledge. It’s hard to know that you’re doing something the wrong way if you don’t know what the right way is. For many Hispanics, poor dental hygiene is a result of inadequate knowledge.
- From a survey done by the HDA, they found that, “Almost one-third of Hispanics (30 percent) responded that they thought cavities will go away on their own through regular tooth brushing. About half or more of respondents also had misperceptions about the importance of brushing versus flossing, whether bleeding is normal during brushing and if mouthwash provides oral health benefits beyond just freshening breath.”
- Most Hispanics grew up (like all of us) implementing the dental habits their parents’ kept up with. Since many Hispanic parents are unaware of the need for dental care, as conveyed above, their kids often have unhealthy teeth. For this reason, it is crucial to communicate to both parents and children about good dental habits. (Keep reading for options on how to do this.)
While we cannot fix these problems entirely, the few people we can help will greatly benefit from adequate information and help from dental professionals’ assistance.
- Have a Spanish-Speaking Team Member. If your dental office doesn’t already have someone who can speak Spanish in order to better communicate with Spanish-speaking patients, consider hiring a hygienist who is fluent in Spanish or multilingual. In addition to helping any Hispanics feel more comfortable, it will also allow them – and your hygienists – to have a clearer understanding of their dental health. Essentially, including a Spanish-speaking member on your staff results in a “win-win”: Because your Hispanic patients feel at ease, they will be more likely to come back to your office and they may tell other Spanish-speakers about your facility, giving your office more customers in a community that your dental competitors might not have. If you cannot hire a Spanish-speaking team member, consider having yourself or your staff learn Spanish – at least the basics, including the vocabulary crucial to dental health.
- Dental Education Resources. How can you reach out to this demographic of Spanish speakers about dental health? Here are a few options to try:
- Online Outreach. Whether it is through your dental office’s website, social pages, email subscriptions or blog, try writing pieces of content in Spanish about the basics of dental education and dental hygiene.
- In Office Outreach. Consider the option of printing short brochures on dental hygiene in Spanish and keeping them in the dental office. As Hispanics come in, offer a brochure to them.
- Community Outreach. Having door-hangers made in Spanish to promote your dental office—and explain dental hygiene—is a great way to communicate to Spanish speakers about dental health. This works very well if your office is in a neighborhood or community with a high population of Hispanics or Spanish-speaking individuals.
This Cinco de Mayo, think about ways your dental office can help to “bridge the gap” between Hispanics and dental health. The need may be growing overall, but any small improvement helps!
What ways can you and your dental office reach out to the Hispanic community?