Lay public's use of a support group for general dental problems

K. K. Walker, Richard Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


OBJECTIVE: To categorize and tabulate layperson inquiries made to an Internet dental health support site to identify oral conditions and associated behaviors of concern.

METHODS: A retrospective tabulation of wall postings was made from an established dental health support website hosted by WebMD over a 2-year period (April 2013-April 2015). A mixed method approach of content and thematic analysis was used. Content analysis identified content of oral health concerns, while thematic analysis using grounded theory identified themes and beliefs concerning associated behaviors.

RESULTS: The presence of non-descript growths on the tongue and swelling and/or discoloration of the lips elicited the most inquires. These were often self-diagnosed as oral candidiasis, a STD or a carcinoma, provoking high levels of self-concern. Unprotected sexual activity, excessive ingestion of soft and hard beverages, smoking and overexposure to the sun were the most frequently self-reported behaviors associated with their concerns. Many questions focused upon "normal" healing, including the amount of edema and discomfort that could occur following oral surgery or other dental procedures. Information concerning alternative treatments was often solicited, and many alluded that they had not been provided sufficient information to make informed decisions prior to dental treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Laypersons have many oral health concerns particularly in relationship to the development of undiagnosed pathologies in conjunction with a history of volitional behaviors. The dental community should monitor these sites to provide advice and links to information about common oral health concerns and their possible association with detrimental behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-194
Number of pages6
JournalCommunity Dental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • health education
  • internet
  • knowledge
  • online
  • oral health
  • self-help groups

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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