health literacy plays an important role in oral health promotion. This study
aimed to assess the level of oral health literacy of senior medical and
Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted on senior medical and
pharmacy students (n=300) of Tehran University of Medical Sciences in 2015. The oral health literacy-adult questionnaire (OHL-AQ)
was used for data collection. This questionnaire has 17 items in four sections.
The first section relates to the assessment of the perception of oral health.
The second section is for the assessment of the ability to calculate values
antibiotic and mouthwash prescriptions. The third section assesses the efficacy
of communication skills, and the fourth section is about decision-making with
regard to oral health problems. Chi-square and linear regression were used for
Results: The mean score
of oral health literacy was 12.09±3.85 for medical
students and 10.48±4.29 for
pharmacy students. University degree of the father (P0.05). The comparison of the mean score
of oral health literacy and oral health behaviors showed that a significant
association existed between a high level of oral health literacy and a higher
frequency of tooth brushing per day, use of toothpaste, regular dental visits,
and the date of the last dental visit (P=0.001). No significant association
existed between the consumption of sugary snacks and the self-reported
oral health status of students and the mean level of oral health literacy
This study was
conducted on senior medical and pharmacy students as
health-care providers. These individuals can promote community oral health as
non-dental professionals 10. The AAMC has included oral health guidelines in
medical curricula to achieve this goal 13. The level of oral health literacy
and behavior of these groups can, to some extent, determine their role in oral
health promotion. Physicians and pharmacists can play a role in public oral
health promotion only when their level of oral health literacy and oral health
behaviors improve 16.
showed that the level of oral health literacy and behavior of senior medical
and pharmacy students was inadequate and similar to that of the general
population of Tehran city 9. One-third of medical and half of pharmacy
students had an inadequate oral health literacy. This difference can be
explained by the fact that most courses provided for medical students in their
curriculum are clinical, while pharmacy students mainly receive paraclinical
and basic science courses. Pharmacy students require more extensive oral health
educational programs in their curriculum. This finding is in line with that of
other studies on the oral health knowledge of medical students 17,18. The
lack of educational programs on oral health is the reason behind the low level
of knowledge about oral health among students. These results highlight the need
for oral health instructions and inclusion of such courses in the curricula of
medical and pharmacy schools.
showed that oral health literacy had no significant association with gender.
Naghibi et al 9 evaluated the health literacy of adults in Tehran in 2013 and
showed that the mean level of health literacy of females was higher than that
of males. In 2009, Sabbahi et al 4 evaluated adults in Canada and showed that
gender was not correlated with health literacy. Our study was conducted on
medical and pharmacy students, which may explain the difference with the
results of the studies conducted on the general population since, in the
general population, males and females may have different levels of education. However, there is no need to provide separate
oral health instruction programs for males and females in universities.
In terms of the
perception of the topic and decision-making with regard to dental
problems, approximately one-third of the students gave correct answers to the
questions in our study. These results confirm the low mean level of oral health
literacy and highlight the inadequate dental knowledge of the students. This
indicates the need for inclusion of oral health topics in the educational
curricula. These programs can promote the oral health of students and the
public since these students are the future health-care providers of the
The mean score
of oral health literacy and its association with oral health behaviors showed
significant correlations between a high level of oral health knowledge and a
higher frequency of tooth brushing per day, use of toothpaste, regular dental
visits, and the date of the last dental visit. These results show that a high
level of oral health literacy results in proper oral health behaviors which
lead to individual and public oral health promotion. Parker and Jamieson 19
showed that individuals who do not regularly brush their teeth have a lower
level of oral health literacy.
Based on the
results of the present study, subjects with a higher level of oral health
literacy reported a better oral health status. This finding was in agreement
with those reported by Naghibi et al 9 and Parker and Jamieson 19 on the
oral health status of adults. However, the present assessment was subjective
(self-reported by the students), and future clinical studies are required to confirm this
finding and to validate the accuracy of self-reports by students.
We used the
OHL-AQ in our study, which is one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date
questionnaires for the assessment of oral health literacy in adults 14,15.
This questionnaire simultaneously evaluates perception, knowledge, calculation
skills, communication skills, and decision-making. Clinical examinations
combined with the use of this questionnaire can yield more accurate results in
The results of
the present study showed that senior medical and pharmacy students, as future
health-care providers, demonstrated a moderate level of oral health literacy. The oral
health literacy of these students can be promoted by inclusion of oral health
courses in their educational curricula.
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