Patients Missing Appointments? Poor Oral Health Literacy Might be to Blame

November 25, 2016
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

The study was conducted over a period of three months, with participants being asked to complete the Comprehensive Measure of Oral Health Knowledge (CMOHK) questionnaire.

In a new study published by the Journal of the American Dental Association, Jagan Baskaradoss, BDS, MPH sought to identify the various factors that influenced whether patients kept their dental appointments or not. In the course of the study, he reached the conclusion that, even adjusting for other factors like demographic information, dental risk factors, and health-seeking behaviors, poor oral health literacy severely affects the likelihood of a patient’s decision to skip an appointment with their dentist.

Baskaradoss conducted a 1:2 case-control study located at a university-based dental clinic involving a total of 150 patients. All the study participants had comparable sociodemographic statuses and dental risk factors. The study was conducted over a period of three months, with participants being asked to complete the Comprehensive Measure of Oral Health Knowledge (CMOHK) questionnaire. This questionnaire was developed as a tool for use in studies examining the oral health literacy of patients from a variety of backgrounds and life circumstances.

Additional information was also gathered about other variables that could possibly influence the outcome of the study using a separate questionnaire and through examining each participant’s electronic medical records.

The CMOHK scores were used to categorize samples into low (≤ 18) and high (˃ 18) oral health literacy groups. The low oral health literacy group was found to be associated with a 2-fold increase in the risk of the patient missing appointments. Interestingly, age was also shown to be a factor related to missed dental appointments.

Oral health literacy includes the abilities of the patient to recognize specific words related to oral health, reading comprehension of written oral health materials, and the ability to communicate effectively with dental professionals about concerns. After the study results were adjusted for the other variables, poor oral health literacy was still strongly associated with the risk of a patient missing a dental appointment. This data shows that predictors of compliance, such as whether or not a patient has poor oral health literacy, could be useful in preventing cancellations and no-shows in the practice.

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