Dental Health

Oral Health Literacy: Empowering Optimal Dental Outcomes

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Mar 7 10593

Oral health literacy is a growing area of focus in dentistry, and we at the Blende Dental Group are dedicated to empowering our patients with the knowledge they need to achieve a healthy mouth, which in turn promotes a healthier body. A beautiful smile is more than just aesthetics. It’s a window to your overall health and well-being. However, achieving and maintaining optimal oral health requires more than just brushing your teeth twice a day. It starts with understanding the information you encounter about dentistry and using it to make informed decisions.

What Exactly is Oral Health Literacy?

The American Dental Association (ADA) defines oral health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate oral health decisions. It also recognizes that by improving health literacy, patients are better stewards of their own health.”

Although oral health literacy is a relatively recent issue in medical and dental literature, it “has a considerably high impact on health outcomes, and specific strategies and actions will lead to the improvement of health levels among the population,” according to academic research appearing in the 2023 study “Oral Health Strategies: Surveying the Present to Plan the Future of Community-Based Learning” by Nélio Jorge Veiga, Patrícia Couto, Patrícia Correia, Anna Carolina Volpi Mello-Moura, Pedro Campos Lopes, and Maria José Correia, published in National Library of Medicine.

“A person should develop the ability and self-consciousness to obtain information related to healthcare,” the authors explain. “Several studies have demonstrated that health consumers with low health literacy fail to understand the available health information, which would increase health levels and, consequently, their quality of life. Therefore, one of the major health strategies must be focused on the positive interactions between modern healthcare and the population, to establish an integrated health promotion plan focused on disease prevention.”

They also conclude that increasing awareness of oral health literacy “will permit a higher interest in accepting health information and help an individual to participate in shared decision-making towards healthcare issues.”

Through dentist-patient interactions, individual research, a dental practice’s ability to market and publish information to the public, and awareness raised in the workplace and political discussions, more people will have access to oral health literacy, which encompasses the ability to:

  • Find credible information about oral health from reliable sources.
  • Comprehend the information presented, including medical terminology and complex concepts.
  • Critically analyze the information for accuracy and relevance to your individual needs.
  • Apply the information to make informed decisions about your dental care routine, treatment options, and overall oral health.

Why is Oral Health Literacy Important?

Many studies have established a strong link between low oral health literacy and poor oral health outcomes. There are several reasons why understanding dental information is crucial.

  • Improved preventive care: By understanding the causes of dental problems like cavities and gum disease, you can take proactive steps to prevent them.
  • Informed decision-making: When faced with treatment options, oral health literacy allows you to ask informed questions, understand the risks and benefits of each procedure, and ultimately choose what’s best for you.
  • Effective communication with your dentist: Clear communication is vital for a successful patient-dentist partnership. Oral health literacy helps you articulate your concerns and expectations, leading to better treatment outcomes.
  • Reduced dental anxiety: The unknown can be scary. Understanding dental procedures beforehand can alleviate anxiety and ensure a more comfortable dental experience.
  • Improved overall health: Oral health is directly linked to overall health. Research suggests that poor oral hygiene can contribute to a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and even diabetes.

Challenges to Achieving Oral Health Literacy

Despite its importance, achieving oral health literacy can be challenging for individuals without clinical backgrounds.

  • Complex dental terminology: The lexicons used by medical and dental professionals can come across as confusing jargon to the average person.
  • Accessibility issues: Information may not be available in preferred languages or formats (e.g., large print, audio) for individuals with disabilities. Reliable and culturally appropriate information may not be readily available, especially for non-English speakers or low-income populations.
  • Culturally specific beliefs: Cultural traditions and beliefs about oral health can sometimes conflict with best practices.
  • Information overload: The internet abounds with dental information, making it difficult to distinguish credible sources from misleading ones.
  • Fear and anxiety: Dental anxieties can make it difficult to ask questions and absorb information during dental visits.

These challenges highlight the importance of partnering with a dentist who prioritizes patient education and communication.

How Blende Dental Group Promotes Oral Health Literacy

At Blende Dental Group, we’re committed to making oral healthcare accessible and empowering to all our patients. Here are some ways we actively promote oral health literacy:

  • Patient education materials: We provide informative brochures, pamphlets, and educational videos on various oral health topics in multiple languages.
  • Clear and concise communication: Our dentists and staff take the time to explain dental procedures, diagnoses, and treatment options in a clear and understandable manner, avoiding technical jargon as much as possible. We encourage you to ask questions!
  • Personalized consultations: We prioritize individualized consultations where you can discuss your specific concerns and receive tailored advice.
  • Visual aids and models: We utilize images, diagrams, and dental models to visually explain complex concepts and procedures.
  • Respecting cultural beliefs: We listen attentively to your cultural beliefs and practices regarding oral health and work collaboratively to develop a treatment plan that aligns with your needs and preferences.
  • Mobile dentistry and homebound care: We recognize that access to dental care can be a barrier for some individuals. Our mobile dentistry services and homebound care options cater to those who have difficulty visiting a traditional dental office setting.

Beyond the Dentist’s Office: Tips for Improving Your Oral Health Literacy

Oral health literacy, at its core, is education and information sharing. The first step should always be forging a strong relationship with a dental practice you trust and which is committed to partnering with patients in shared decision making and individualized treatment planning. 

  • Find a reliable dental team: Choose a dentist who prioritizes patient education and values clear communication.
  • Seek information from credible sources: Look for information from reputable organizations like the American Dental Association (ADA) or government health websites.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions: Curiosity is key. Feel empowered to ask your dentist or dental hygienist questions about any aspect of your oral health.
  • Utilize online resources wisely: While the internet offers a wealth of information, be critical of the sources you access. Look for websites affiliated with reputable dental associations or educational institutions.
  • Engage in discussions about oral health: Talk to your family and friends about oral hygiene practices and the importance of

Investing in Your Oral Health is an Investment in Your Overall Well-Being

By prioritizing oral health literacy, you gain the power to take control of your smile and your overall health. Remember, a healthy mouth contributes to a healthier you. If you have any questions or concerns about your oral health, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Blende Dental Group. For existing patients, book an appointment today. If you’d like to become a new patient, schedule a consultation so we can address all the questions you may have.

Together, we can build a foundation for a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles.

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