What do people do before going to the dentist? Qualitative study of cultural practices of pain relief in primary care.
Objective: To describe and classify the main cultural practices used to relieve orodental pain in people who seek emergency dental care in vulnerable urban and rural areas of central Chile. Methodology: A sample of 88 adults residing in urban and rural sectors, who received treatment at primary care emergency dental services in three districts of the central area of Chile was studied using a qualitative descriptive approach of sociocultural epidemiological orientation based on Grounded Theory. Interviews were conducted in the waiting room of the emergency service or at the patient’s home. Empirical saturation and triangulation of temporal data were protected. Results: Practices of biomedical origin (self-medication and care received at dental emergency services) and socio-cultural practices were documented. They include the use of chemical products (iodine, phosphorus, battery acid, hydrogen peroxide, gasoline, and alcoholic drinks, among others), herbal infusions (Buddleja globosa, Aloe vera), mechanical-physical techniques (use of cold or heat, massage); subjects also perform the mechanical manipulation of the area with sharp objects, occasionally extracting the tooth itself. Practices occur more frequently at home when the person feels the pain in the affected area, and end on the dental chair with the tooth extraction. Conclusions: The coexistence of biomedical practices and alternative cultural strategies was observed. These practices complement each other and make people postpone seeking professional dental care, which may worsen their health condition.