OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to describe oral health literacy (OHL) among periodontal patients and to examine its association with periodontal health status.
METHODS: This cross-sectional study included new and referred patients presenting to the University of North Carolina Graduate Periodontology Clinic. Sociodemographic and dental history information were collected. OHL was measured using a dental word recognition instrument, Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy-30 (REALD-30). Clinical periodontal examinations were completed.
RESULTS: One hundred and twenty-eight participants enrolled and 121 completed all study examinations and instruments. Despite a high level of education among participants in our study, low levels of OHL were found in one-third (33 percent) of the study population. Thirty-one percent had moderate OHL (score of 22-25), 37 percent had high OHL (score ≥ 26). The mean REALD-30 score was 23. Fifty-three percent of participants had severe periodontitis, 29 percent had moderate periodontitis, and 18 percent had mild or no periodontitis. Bivariate analysis showed a significant association between OHL and periodontal status (P < 0.05). The effect of OHL on periodontal health status remained statistically significant (P < 0.002) even after controlling for smoking, race, and dental insurance.
CONCLUSION: Lower OHL was associated with more severe periodontal disease among new and referred patients presenting to the University of North Carolina Graduate Periodontology Clinics.