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Pediatr Dent. 2011 Sep-Oct;33(5):392-8.

Maternal beliefs and motivations for first dental visit by low-income Mexican American children in California.

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  • 1Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences, History and Social Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, USA.



The purpose of this study was to examine Mexican American immigrant caregivers' beliefs and motivations surrounding the first dental visit for their young children (median age=5-years-old).


Qualitative interviews were conducted among a convenience sample of 48 low-income, Mexican American mothers about their young children's oral health. Transcripts were independently read, coded, and thematically analyzed.


Half (51%) of first dental visits were for parent-initiated reasons, including: for pain or visible dental problems; for parent's proactive desire to get a checkup; or to avoid future dental problems. The other half was initiated by external prompts, especially pediatrician recommendations and school requirements. Once a child went to the dentist for his/her first visit, 94% continued with regular checkups. The mean age for a first dental visit was 3-years-old. Three parents reported cases in which dentists discouraged visits for symptomatic children before they were 3-years-old.


The low-income, urban Mexican American parents interviewed take their children to their first dental visit when they are approximately 3-years-old, much later than the recommended 1-year-old first visit for this at-risk population. Physicians are well positioned to play an important role in prompting first dental visits.

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