The relationship of oral health literacy and self-efficacy with oral health status and dental neglect

Am J Public Health. 2012 May;102(5):923-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300291. Epub 2011 Nov 28.


Objectives: We examined the associations of oral health literacy (OHL) with oral health status (OHS) and dental neglect (DN), and we explored whether self-efficacy mediated or modified these associations.

Methods: We used interview data collected from 1280 female clients of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children from 2007 to 2009 as part of the Carolina Oral Health Literacy Project. We measured OHL with a validated word recognition test (REALD-30), and we measured OHS with the self-reported National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey item. Analyses used descriptive, bivariate, and multivariate methods.

Results: Less than one third of participants rated their OHS as very good or excellent. Higher OHL was associated with better OHS (for a 10-unit REALD increase: multivariate prevalence ratio = 1.29; 95% confidence interval = 1.08, 1.54). OHL was not correlated with DN, but self-efficacy showed a strong negative correlation with DN. Self-efficacy remained significantly associated with DN in a fully adjusted model that included OHL.

Conclusions: Increased OHL was associated with better OHS but not with DN. Self-efficacy was a strong correlate of DN and may mediate the effects of literacy on OHS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Dental Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Literacy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Oral Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult