Date of Conferral
Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
Dental caries is the most prevalent childhood illness and disproportionately affects children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Dental organizations are collaborating within communities to decrease oral health disparities among children by offering free preventive oral health events. These programs face the problem of low enrollment due to lack of informed parental consent. Also, gaps in the literature indicated the need to examine oral health perceptions and dental-care-seeking practices of culturally diverse low-income parents regarding preventive care for their children. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the reasons why parents are not allowing their children to participate in the aforementioned programs. This inquiry examined how perceived barriers impede parents from seeking free preventive dental care for their children. The transtheoretical model and social cognitive theory were used in this study. Open-ended questions were used to interview 20 purposefully sampled parents regarding perceptions of free preventive dental care programs until saturation. Interviews were audio recorded, and all data were transcribed verbatim, coded, and analyzed thematically. The main themes revealed through this analysis were lack of trust and cultural dissimilarities as potential barriers. Additional themes of money, fear, lack of insurance, transportation, time, and access to care were also confirmed. This study may contribute to positive social change by increasing knowledge that may inform the development of clinical and policy solutions aimed at improving parents' awareness regarding children's oral health, ultimately enabling a reduction in childhood caries and oral health disparities.