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Understanding oral health beliefs and practices among Cantonese-speaking older Australians


Associate Professor Rodrigo Mariño, Melbourne Dental School, University of Melbourne. Email:


Aim:  The present study was conducted to explore how older immigrants from Hong Kong or Southern China manage their oral health in Melbourne.

Methods:  We used six focus groups involving 50 Cantonese-speaking immigrants who were 55 years and over and living in Melbourne.

Results:  Four major themes relevant to oral health care emerged from the discussion: (i) traditional Chinese health beliefs; (ii) traditional medicine and oral health; (iii) attitudes towards dentists; and (iv) access to oral health-care services. Language, communication and cost of dentistry were identified as major barriers to oral health care.

Conclusion:  Older Chinese immigrants in Melbourne have concerns about oral health care that are similar to other ethnic groups, they want more oral health-related support from government, and many of they return to China or Hong Kong for dental treatment.