Dental diaspora: oral health care attitudes and experiences in culturally and linguistically diverse mothers in Australia

Kanchan Marcus, Madhan Balasubramanian, Stephanie D Short, Woosung Sohn

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Background: Globally oral health care is unequally accessible or utilised within culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) migrant communities. Yet much remains unknown about CALD mothers and their oral healthcare experiences in Australia. Hence, this paper explores the oral health care attitudes and experiences of CALD mothers within the Australian context with the broader objective to reduce oral health inequalities.

Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted from a social constructivism paradigm. Participants were foreign country born, spoke language/s other than English and have a child. Purposive snowball sampling and recruitment was conducted through CALD organisations and social media. Participants were interviewed for their attitudes and experiences to dental care and frequency of utilisation in Australia and the home country. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and grounded analysis (Strauss and Corbin) performed. Researcher bias was reduced through reflexivity and triangulation.

Results: The participants (n = 33) included 20 CALD mothers born in India and 13 from either China, Fiji, Nepal, Macedonia and Israel. The theme, experiences with health workforce personnel revealed positive attitudes toward CALD providers from similar cultural and/or linguistic backgrounds. We coin these CALD providers as the ‘dental diaspora’. The dental diaspora facilitated CALD mothers through culture and/or language factors, alleviating cost barriers and flexibility in appointments. Dental travel to the home country was affirmed, however family visitation was the foremost reason for travel.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that the dental diaspora plays a significant role in promoting oral health care utilisation for first generation CALD mothers in Australia. This paper brings to light the phenomenon of the ‘dental diaspora’ as an essential health workforce that contributes to addressing inequities in oral healthcare utilisation within CALD migrant communities. Universal health coverage in oral health is further affirmed, as aligned to the WHO policy context.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1314
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Nov 2022


  • Oral health
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Diaspora
  • Health workforce
  • Health services accessibility


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