Male Young Child

Background:

Mrs. Pham brings her son Binh to your office for the first time for a Texas Health Steps preventive medical checkup. Her friend Mrs. Bui serves as a translator because Mrs. Pham speaks very little English and you speak no Vietnamese. After the exam, which includes an oral evaluation, you recommend establishing a First Dental Home for Binh. Mrs. Bui politely shakes her head and says, “I won’t bother her with that.” What is your ethical responsibility in this case where language and culture clash with best medical practice?

Early childhood caries (ECC) is the leading infectious disease in childhood. As a Texas Health Steps provider, you routinely complete an oral exam and provide anticipatory guidance about daily oral hygiene. You know that a First Dental Home should be established beginning at 6 months old, as recommended by Texas Health Steps, and you want to ensure that Mrs. Pham understands the importance of taking this step for Binh. This visit is an opportunity to promote good oral health for the family and protect Binh from potential complications such as oral pain, impaired speech development, and infection.

Refusal to pass along information or errors in translation are risks when using non-certified interpreters. In this case, it may reflect Mrs. Bui’s unfamiliarity with the benefits of early dental care.