The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the lack of knowledge amongst the general public on even basic oral health practices. As dental professionals, we have all seen the consequences of poor oral hygiene practices in our patients. The problem is not with the lack of availability of information, but rather a lack of oral health literacy. Oral health literacy encompasses an individual’s ability to obtain, understand, and use oral health information. In this blog, we’ll discuss the importance of oral health literacy and how it directly affects the health of our patients.
Oral health literacy goes beyond basic knowledge of oral hygiene practices such as brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash. It includes the ability to understand and remember oral health instructions, make informed decisions about oral health care, and navigate the healthcare system. Individuals who lack oral health literacy are at a higher risk of developing oral diseases such as periodontitis, tooth decay, and oral cancer. The lack of oral health literacy also leads to a lack of trust in dental professionals, reduced compliance with treatment recommendations, and poor health outcomes.
There is ample evidence suggesting a correlation between low health literacy and poor health outcomes. Patients with low health literacy are more likely to report poor health status, have chronic health conditions, and experience higher rates of hospitalization. A study conducted by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research found that individuals with low health literacy were less likely to receive preventive oral health services and more likely to require restorative care.
Oral health literacy can also affect patients’ ability to communicate effectively with dental professionals. Patients who misunderstand the instructions given by their dentist are more likely to be non-compliant and suffer negative health consequences. Effective communication between patients and dental professionals improves patient outcomes, reduces healthcare costs, and increases patient satisfaction.
Dental professionals play a crucial role in promoting oral health literacy. By using plain language and visual aids, dental professionals can increase patient comprehension and facilitate informed decision-making. Dental professionals can also provide patient education materials in multiple languages to reach diverse patient populations. Effective communication can have a lasting impact on oral health outcomes and improve overall health literacy.
Oral health literacy is an essential component of oral healthcare and is critical to improving patient outcomes. It is important for dental professionals to recognize the impact of low oral health literacy on patient health and take steps to improve communication. By providing clear, concise, and accurate oral health information, dental professionals can empower patients to make informed decisions about their oral health. Increasing oral health literacy can lead to improved health outcomes and a better quality of life for patients. As dental professionals, it is our duty to promote oral health literacy and improve the health of our patients.