This study examined the associations between acculturation and orofacial pain and healthcare among Hispanic adults. Understanding the effects of acculturation on Hispanic oral health may improve understanding of oral health disparities in the United States. Data were collected from 911 Hispanic adults reporting tooth pain and painful oral sores who were part of a larger study of South Florida residents conducted using random-digit dialing methodology. The survey was conducted in Spanish or English by bilingual interviewers per the choice of each respondent. Greater use of the Spanish language was associated with disparities in healthcare visits for orofacial pain, not having a usual dentist, having greater pain, increased difficulty eating and sleeping, and more depression. Respondents’ and their parents’ nativity (families that had been in the United States longer) and those identifying more closely to Hispanic culture were also predictive of several of the outcomes. Gender, financial status, and age, independent of acculturation, were also associated with orofacial pain, accessing health care, and pain-related loss of functioning among Hispanics. The data support the hypothesis that Hispanics with less acculturation are less able to access needed oral health care. This study highlights the need for outreach programs targeting recent Hispanic immigrants focusing on oral health care.
PERSPECTIVE: This study found that lower levels of acculturation, particularly less frequent use of English, were associated with greater oral pain and depression for Hispanics adults. This emphasizes the need to provide Hispanic patients with information in Spanish and the importance of having bilingual materials and staff in dental clinics.