Orthodontic and oral health literacy in adults

PLoS One. 2022 Aug 18;17(8):e0273328. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0273328. eCollection 2022.


Objective: The primary aim of the study was to determine levels of literacy in both oral health and orthodontics in an adult population. The secondary study aim was to investigate differences in literacy between males and females.

Methods: Participants included individuals 18 years or older seeking dental treatment at the East Carolina University (ECU) School of Dental Medicine. To determine levels of oral health literacy (OHL) and orthodontic literacy (OrthoL), validated instruments were administered, including the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine and Dentistry, the Oral Health Literacy Instrument and its separate scales, and a questionnaire on orthodontic literacy. Summary statistics were computed, and statistical significance was set at 0.05.

Results: One hundred seventy-two individuals participated in the study and had a mean age of 55.03 (range:18-88). Greater than 70% of the sampled population exhibited inadequate or marginal oral health knowledge. Additionally, greater than 70% of the sample possessed no more than an 8th grade reading level, with regard to basic medical and dental terms. Higher education was weakly associated with higher OrthoL and OHL. Higher age was also weakly associated with lower OrthoL and OHL. Males on average exhibited significantly higher OHL (p < .05) but there were no OrthoL differences between males and females. Dental visit frequency was not associated with OrthoL or OHL.

Conclusion: Low levels of OrthoL and OHL were observed in the study. While males demonstrated a higher level of OHL than females, neither age nor the occurrence of dental appointments significantly influenced levels of literacy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oral Health
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.