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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Insights into the oral health beliefs and practices of mothers from a north London Orthodox Jewish community

Sasha Scambler1, Charlotte Klass2, Desmond Wright13* and Jennifer E Gallagher1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oral Health Services Research and Dental Public Health, King's College London Dental Institute, London, UK

2 Department of Oral Health Services Research and Dental Public Health, Former Senior House Officer, King's College London Dental Institute, London, UK

3 Consultant in Dental Public Health, National Health Service City & Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham, London, UK

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BMC Oral Health 2010, 10:14  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-10-14

Published: 7 June 2010



The objective of this study was to explore oral health knowledge and beliefs and access to dental care in a culturally distinct Orthodox Jewish community in North London, with a view to informing local health policy.


A dual method qualitative approach to data collection was adopted in this study utilising semi-structured face to face interviews and focus groups with women from this North London orthodox Jewish community. In total nine interviews and four focus groups were conducted with a purposive sample of thirty three mothers from the community aged 21-58 years. The data were transcribed and analysed using Framework Methodology


Cultural influences, competing pressures and perceptions of hereditary influences, together with a lack of contemporary oral health knowledge are the main factors affecting oral health knowledge and beliefs. This supported an overall perspective of disempowerment or a perceived lack of control over oral health behaviours, both for mothers and their children. Community signposting pointed mothers to dental services, whilst family pressures together with inadequate capacity and capability and generic barriers such as fear and cost acted as barriers. Mothers from this community welcomed community development initiatives from the NHS.


The results of this study provide insight into the challenges of a culturally isolated community who would welcome community support through schools and expanded culturally appropriate opening hours to improve access to dental care.