Beyond word recognition: understanding pediatric oral health literacy

Pediatr Dent. 2011 Sep-Oct;33(5):420-5.


Purpose: Parental oral health literacy is proposed to be an indicator of children's oral health. The purpose of this study was to test if word recognition, commonly used to assess health literacy, is an adequate measure of pediatric oral health literacy. This study evaluated 3 aspects of oral health literacy and parent-reported child oral health.

Methods: A 3-part pediatric oral health literacy inventory was created to assess parents' word recognition, vocabulary knowledge, and comprehension of 35 terms used in pediatric dentistry. The inventory was administered to 45 English-speaking parents of children enrolled in Head Start.

Results: Parents' ability to read dental terms was not associated with vocabulary knowledge (r=0.29, P<.06) or comprehension (r=0.28, P>.06) of the terms. Vocabulary knowledge was strongly associated with comprehension (r=0.80, P<.001). Parent-reported child oral health status was not associated with word recognition, vocabulary knowledge, or comprehension; however parents reporting either excellent or fair/poor ratings had higher scores on all components of the inventory.

Conclusions: Word recognition is an inadequate indicator of comprehension of pediatric oral health concepts; pediatric oral health literacy is a multifaceted construct. Parents with adequate reading ability may have difficulty understanding oral health information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Comprehension*
  • Dental Care for Children / psychology*
  • Educational Status
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Observer Variation
  • Oral Health*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pediatric Dentistry / education
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Vocabulary*