OBJECTIVES: We examined whether health literacy was associated with self-rated oral health status and whether the relationship was mediated by patient-dentist communication and dental care patterns.
METHODS: We tested a path model with data collected from 2 waves of telephone surveys (baseline, 2009-2010; follow-up, 2011) of individuals residing in 36 rural census tracts in northern Florida (final sample size n = 1799).
RESULTS: Higher levels of health literacy were associated with better self-rated oral health status (B = 0.091; P < .001). In addition, higher levels of health literacy were associated with better patient-dentist communication, which in turn corresponded with patterns of regular dental care and better self-rated oral health (B = 0.003; P = .01).
CONCLUSIONS: Our study showed that, beyond the often-reported effects of gender, race, education, financial status, and access to dental care, it is also important to consider the influence of health literacy and quality of patient-dentist communication on oral health status. Improved patient-dentist communication is needed as an initial step in improving the population’s oral health.