Roundtable member Pleasant observed that many of the lessons from health literacy are applicable to oral health literacy. While it is important to avoid “reinventing the wheel,” he cautioned that oral health professionals should be very careful not to adopt tools and methodologies that have not been proven in the context of dental practice. In terms of research and evaluation, Pleasant indicated that health outcome indicators are needed in the evaluation metric, as well as information on the costs of interventions under investigation.
Roundtable member Brach observed that primary care providers are essential players in terms of oral health literacy because, according to some of the evidence provided during the workshop, they are responsible for 50 percent of the claims for dental services among some pediatric populations. She felt strongly that primary care providers, given their prominent role in addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, need to be targeted for education and training in the area of oral health literacy. Brach congratulated those in the oral health literacy community for adopting some of health literacy’s best practices, evidence, and knowledge and applying it to oral health.
Roundtable member Parker raised a very practical issue. She asked how many people in the audience brushed their teeth for 2 minutes. This is recommended, but she herself admitted that it is a difficult recommendation to adhere to. She has four children and none of them was ever taught to brush for 2 minutes. She suggested that it is important to hold up a mirror, ask about our own health literacy, and acknowledge the difficulties of practicing what is preached.
Roundtable member Schyve found that a key message from the day’s proceedings was that poor oral health literacy leads to both poor general health and poor oral health. He observed that the implications of poor oral health literacy extend beyond oral health. A second key message is that oral health literacy is influenced at multiple levels, the community, the family, and the individual. To address the issue of oral health literacy, interventions are needed at the level of policy makers, public health organizations, and individuals, Schyve said. He observed that solid research with a focus on outcomes is needed to provide evidence that prevention (e.g., fluoride, sealants) and medical/dental collaboration are effective. He stated that the adoption of interventions depends on complex systems and that an intervention’s success may be dependent on the context in which it is tested. This introduces a major challenge to research because it is necessary to demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions, not just overall, but in specific situations. Schyve said that much more research