Objective: To determine the differences between the levels of interest of South American Google users on information related to dental caries and toothache over time.
Materials and methods: The monthly variation of Relative Search Volume (RSV) for both queries was obtained in Google Trends between 2004 and 2017. The association between RSVs, Internet penetration, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for dental caries in permanent teeth were tested by distinct regression models. Forecasting ARIMA models were developed to analyze trends and predict the interests until December 2018.
Results: In general, toothache-related searches presented an uptrend associated positively with Internet penetration and negatively with DALYs, whereas dental caries-related searches presented a downtrend associated negatively with Internet penetration and positively with DALYs. The seasonality affected only dental caries curves, with the highest rates observed in the first trimester and the lowest rates in June, July, and December.
Conclusion: The levels of interests of South American Google users in seeking dental caries and toothache information appear to have a direct connection with the burden of untreated dental caries lesions and Internet penetration. The no association between dental caries- and toothache-related interests reinforces the unfamiliarity of most people about the relationship of dental pain with the final stages of chronic oral diseases.
Keywords: dental caries; eHealth; health behavior; informatics; toothache.
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