Journal of Community Health

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 250–257 | Cite as

Immigrant Caregivers of Young Children: Oral Health Beliefs, Attitudes, and Early Childhood Caries Knowledge

  • Deborah A. FinneganEmail author
  • Lori Rainchuso
  • Susan Jenkins
  • Erin Kierce
  • Andrew Rothman
Original Paper


The incidence of early childhood caries (ECC) is a global public health concern. The oral health knowledge of a caregiver can affect a child’s risk for developing ECC. An exploratory study of the oral health knowledge and behaviors among caregivers of children 6 years of age and younger was conducted with a convenience sample of adults (n = 114) enrolled in English language or high school equivalency examination courses. The majority of study participants were born in Asia (47 %). Other birth regions included South America (16 %), Caribbean (16 %), Africa (10 %), and Central America (6 %). Study findings showed caregivers with low oral health knowledge were more likely to engage in behaviors that increase a child’s risk for developing ECC. A statistically significant relationship was found between participants’ rating of their child’s dental health as poor and the belief that children should not be weaned from the nursing bottle by 12 months of age (P = 0.002), brushing should not begin upon tooth eruption (P = 0.01), and fluoride does not strengthen teeth and prevent dental caries (P = 0.005). Subjects who pre-chewed their child’s food also exhibited behaviors including sharing eating utensils or a toothbrush with their child (P < 0.001). Additional caregiver behaviors included providing their child with a bottle containing cariogenic liquids in a crib (P < 0.001). As a result of this research, it is pertinent that culturally sensitive oral health promotion programs are developed and implemented to raise awareness and reduce the risk of dental disease among immigrant populations.


Parental oral health behavior Immigrants Early childhood caries Oral health literacy 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah A. Finnegan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lori Rainchuso
    • 2
  • Susan Jenkins
    • 2
  • Erin Kierce
    • 2
  • Andrew Rothman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Dental HygieneMiddlesex Community CollegeLowellUSA
  2. 2.Forsyth School of Dental HygieneMCPHS UniversityBostonUSA

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