Knowledge about the oral health and dental care habits of older immigrants is limited. The aim of this study was to explore dental service utilization, oral care habits, and attitudes to and knowledge about oral diseases and their prevention among older immigrants in Sweden.
A qualitative research method was used, and data were collected in individual interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the immigrants′ views. Thirteen immigrants, seven women and six men, recruited from meeting places for older immigrants, participated, all aged between 59 and 88 (median 72 years). Interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Eight interviews were carried out with the help of an authorized interpreter.
In the analytical process, performed using the content analysis method, meaning units were identified and condensed into codes which were labelled and grouped into subcategories and categories. The interview analysis resulted in four categories: Experiences of dental care, Attitudes, Barriers and Prevention of oral diseases. The elderly immigrants described a mix of regular and acute dental care and were often not satisfied with the outcome of the treatments. They stated that oral health was important and that they were responsible for their own teeth. Barriers to dental care were costs, language problems and lack of confidence in dental services. Daily oral hygiene routines were performed using a traditional chewing stick and/or regular toothbrush.
The participants stated that, despite the barriers to treatment described above, they valued good oral health and visited dental services when they needed to.