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Open Access Technical advance

Are immigrant populations aware about their oral health status? A study among immigrants from Ethiopia

Avi Zini, Yuval Vered* and Harold D Sgan-Cohen

Author Affiliations

Department of Community Dentistry, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:205  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-205

Published: 26 June 2009

Abstract

Background

Evidence from Western countries indicates that there are fundamental discrepancies between self-perceived illness of immigrants and the provision of health care, according to the Western bio-medical health service model. These need to be understood in the planning and implementation stages of public health care programs for new immigrants. The objectives of the present study were to investigate self-perceived versus clinically diagnosed dental and periodontal health status among immigrants from Ethiopia.

Methods

During 2004–2005, dental and periodontal health status was recorded among 340 Ethiopian immigrants, utilizing the DMFT and CPI indices. Additionally, participants were interviewed using a questionnaire which included perceived dental and periodontal health status. Sensitivity and specificity levels of this perception were calculated and compared with the published scientific literature.

Results

Regarding dental caries, according to the three operational cut-off points, sensitivity ranged from 70% to 81%, and specificity ranged from 56% to 67%. Regarding periodontal status, 75% of the subjects clinically diagnosed with periodontal pockets self-perceived a "bad" health status of gums (sensitivity) and 54% of the subjects diagnosed without periodontal pockets, reported a "good" health status of gums (specificity). These indications of perception levels were higher than a previous study conducted among native born Israelis.

Conclusion

Minority ethnic groups should not be prejudicially regarded as less knowledgeable. This is illustrated by the unexpected high level of oral health status perception in the present population. Oral health promotion initiatives among immigrants should be based upon optimal descriptive data in order to accomplish the inherent social commitment to these diverse populations.