Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Oral Health of Immigrant African Males in the United States

Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Oral Health of Immigrant African Males in the United States

Article excerpt


Immigrant African men are part of a huge influx of immigrants from diverse backgrounds in the United States (1-5). As pointed out by Allan and Caswell (6) and Cruz et al (5), the current discussion on presumed determinants of general health differences among diverse populations and minority groups including immigrants in the United States, has focused on differences in socioeconomic characteristics such as education and income levels (5,6). As a result, there is a lack of evaluation of other factors that influence immigrant's oral health status. Specifically, such factors as indigenous cultural beliefs and acculturation process encountered in their daily-lived experience upon immigration to the United States have not been studied. Accordingly, little is known about immigrant's oral health (5, 7).

Research on oral health by Davis (8), Borrell et al (9), Newton and Bower (10), Patrick et al (7), Vargas and Arevalo (11) revealed that most oral diseases are preventable and are relatively easy and inexpensive to address at early stages. Oral health is essential for one's well-being. There much more to it than an individual having healthy teeth. In particular, it relates to and impacts the overall health and wellbeing of individuals and entire populations. Accordingly, the consequences of lack of dental care reach far beyond aesthetics (7, 11). It is paramount to consider that the impact of oral health on the overall health and wellbeing of individuals or groups of people remain connected for everyone living in the United States.

Like many immigrants, African men encounter complex and diverse cultural and social processes that affect both oral health and access to effective dental health care upon immigration to the United States. Such processes present problems of access to care and quality of care, cultural differences between providers and patients, history of discrimination and persistent severity of poverty (12). According to Allan and Caswell (6), the primary influences of dental health services utilization among Immigrant African men include a combination of factors such as access to dental insurance, social and cultural values, cultural and socioeconomic changes that have strongly affected diet, cultural marginalization at the hands of the dominant American culture, and generally low levels of income that affect all of these factors. Results from several studies (5, 7, 11, 13) indicated that experiences people bring with them when they migrate are fundamental to how they subsequently view dental health and dental health services in United States.

Available studies on African health care services, for example, indicate that in many African settings dental health services are accessed only when there is a specific need which is perceived to be serious or life threatening (1, 5, 14). As a result the philosophy of health promotion and preventive medicine are not well established in most African communities. This could explain immigrant African men's utilization of dental health services while residing in the United States. A preliminary evaluation of the current dental health status and dental service utilization by population groups such as immigrant African men is an essential step toward achieving improved oral health status in United States.

In view of the above problems, it is therefore crucial to examine immigrant African men's utilization of dental health services and the cultural and acculturation basis of their oral health care habits while residing in the United States of America.


The study utilized purposeful sampling with targeted snowball sampling (15) to recruit 25 individuals aged18 to 55 years living in central Indiana which is residence to a significant population of African immigrant men. Study sample also comprised of individuals who had lived in Indiana or had related to the current Indiana residents. All participants were born outside the United States and spoke English. …

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