Background: This article critically appraises a cross-sectional study that was conducted to investigate whether an association exists between dental utilization and Oral Health Literacy (OHL).
Clinical question: In participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in North Carolina, is dental utilization associated with OHL?
Summary of methods: The authors conducted a cross-sectional study using data collected through the Carolina Oral Health Literacy Project from nine sites of the WIC Program in seven North Carolina counties. OHL was determined by the validated 30-item Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Dentistry test. A question from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was employed to assess dental utilization. Multiple linear regression was used to analyze the association between OHL and covariates. Ordinary least square regression was performed to determine whether an association exists between dental utilization and OHL.
Critical appraisal: This was a well-constructed cross-sectional study employing validated survey techniques. The strength of the findings was considered low to moderate given the size of the study and its design. The generalizability is limited due to selection bias, as only females of low socioeconomic status and who spoke English were included in the study. Another limitation was that there was no distinction made for the nature of the dental utilization (emergency versus regular maintenance).
Practical implications: The results showed no association between dental utilization and OHL. These findings are of importance as there are no other studies showing this directional relationship, or lack thereof, explicitly. Further research is needed to analyze this relationship while taking the nature of the dental utilization into consideration.