Health Literacy, Health Communications, Health Education
Providing oral disease prevention services, in low-income housing communities with concurrent evaluation of University of Maryland Dental Hygiene students' communication skills
(UMB, School of Dentistry, Department of Periodontics Faculty )
Oral diseases continue to burden a significant portion of the American public, especially those in low-income groups. Emergency Department visits for dental pain are on the rise in the US while overall Emergency Department visits are declining. Research has shown that poor oral health literacy (OHL) affects oral health, can negatively influence quality of life and has a signifi¬cant financial impact on society. Dental caries, the most common disease of children affects caregivers as well. National initiatives to increase the OHL levels of American citizens include training health care professionals about effective communication skills and dissemi¬nating oral health information to groups outside of dentistry. Dental Hygienists, whose primary focus is prevention, can and must play a critical role in helping individuals in low- income communities’ increase their understanding of caries prevention strategies. Surveys indicate that dental hygienists need increased education in caries prevention and appropriate communication skills to make appropriate clinical decisions and provide self-care counseling. Intervention studies are necessary to identify communication techniques to provide caries prevention recommendations that are most helpful with vulnerable individuals such as Medicaid recipients. This presentation will describe the process to develop a community outreach program that eliminates barriers for this high-risk population to seek preventive oral health services while creating an appropriate venue to evaluate the University of Maryland’s dental hygiene curriculum with respect to caries prevention strategies. It will also report findings that identify communication techniques that can effectively transfer science–based information to low-income children and their caregivers.