Access to oral health care for undocumented migrants: Perspectives of actors involved in a voluntary dental network in the Netherlands

Myrthe van Midde*, Iris Hesse, Geert J.M.G. van der Heijden, Denise Duijster, Marianne van Elteren, Margreet Kroesen, Charles Agyemang, Erik Beune

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Undocumented migrants in Europe face multiple barriers in access to oral health care. This study aimed to explore the accessibility of a voluntary dental network providing dental treatments to undocumented migrants in the Netherlands, from the perspectives of patients, dentists and staff members of nongovernmental organizations involved. Methods: This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews (n = 21) with undocumented migrants (n = 12), dentists (n = 7) and staff members of nongovernmental organizations (n = 2) during the implementation of a voluntary dental network. Interviews were analysed using a framework analysis method. Results: As a temporary answer to problems in access to oral health for undocumented migrants, the voluntary dental network targeted initial barriers to dental care. Main challenges within the network were conflicting expectations and perceived treatment outcomes by patients, dentist and NGO staff members, limited financial resources, logistic and communication barriers and an increasing administrative burden. Furthermore, feelings of compassion for and trust of the patient affected the ethics of the professional relationship and influenced treatment decisions of dentists. Conclusion: Through the implementation of a voluntary dental network, treatments could be provided to undocumented migrants as a temporary solution. However, the voluntary nature of dental care in the network resulted in a fragmented provision of oral health care among undocumented migrants. To reduce inequalities in oral health on the long term, systemic barriers in access to oral health care need to be addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-336
Number of pages7
JournalCommunity Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

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