August 3, 2012

A study from Dr. Alice Horowitz, research associate professor in the Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy, and colleagues shows that the communication practices of dental care providers are pivotal to increasing oral health literacy and decreasing dental disparities. By surveying English-speaking Maryland adults who had a child six years of age or younger in the home, Dr. Horowitz found significant differences between adults with Medicaid coverage compared to those with private insurance in terms of their satisfaction with how their dentist communicated with them. Adults who use Medicaid and their children have the most compromised oral health and thus are most in need for oral health information, yet these individuals were more likely to report dissatisfaction about their dentist listening carefully, showing respect, and spending time and treating them fairly because of race, ethnicity, or level of education.

The study also verified that the majority of Maryland adults report they obtain their dental information from a dentist. Dr. Horowitz recommends upgrading the communication, listening, and cultural competency skills of practicing dentists and their staff to address the discrepancy in perceptions found in this study and that the primary place to start this effort is in the schools of dentistry and dental hygiene. The study was funded by a grant from the DentaQuest Foundation.

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Alice Horowitz