Background. Oral health disparities related to socioeconomic status have been well described in the U.S., but oral health among refugee groups has not been well characterized. This article examines oral health among Somali refugees in Massachusetts. Methods. Eighty-three (83) participants were purposively selected for an in-depth, open-ended interview related to oral health. Results. Older individuals associated use of the stick brush with the Islamic practice of cleansing before prayer. When unable to find stick brushes in the U.S., many adopted the Western toothbrush. Parents expressed concern that their children had adopted U.S. practices of brushing with a toothbrush only once or twice a day. Conclusions/implications. Somali oral health practices have changed following arrival to the U.S., but the underlying model for oral health care remains rooted in Islam. By acknowledging the value of traditional practices, dentists may communicate the value of Western preventive and restorative dentistry, and recommend approaches to integrating the two.


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pp. 1474-1485
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Open Access
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