The Appalachian region has consistently had poorer oral health that the rest of the United States. This is due to many factors such as high poverty rates, less fluoridated water, fewer individuals being insured, and a lack of dental professionals in the region. Many public health measures have been implemented in Appalachia to bridge this gap, but many stereotypes about the oral health in this region still exist. The purpose of this study was to determine if perceptions of oral health in Appalachia were different among Appalachians and Non-Appalachians and propose ways that these perceptions can be used to improve oral health messages. A survey was posted to Facebook and data was included for participants that were deemed Appalachian (n=39) and Non-Appalachian (n=72). The survey analyzed demographics, past and current oral health practices, and perceptions about oral health in Appalachia specifically. Most survey participants were between 18-24 years of age, had some form of post-secondary education, and identified as Non-Hispanic White. Three topics were found to be statistically significant between the two groups: the respondents’ perceptions about the oral health status of their childhood residence population, the respondents’ perceptions of the level of knowledge about health oral hygiene practices of their childhood residence population, and the respondents’ perceptions about the oral health status of Appalachia. Overall, more research is needed before significant changes to oral health messages can be proposed, but messages should focus on reducing barriers and changing attitudes about oral health behaviors since this study revealed that Appalachians are generally knowledgeable about healthy oral habits, but may lack prioritization.
Semester/Year of Award
Phyllis A. Bryden
Mentor Professional Affiliation
Health Promotion and Administration
Restricted Access Thesis
IRB Approval Number (if applicable)
Sandefur, Ciara F., "Analyzing Oral Health Perceptions to Create Targeted Messages in Appalachia" (2019). Honors Theses. 694.
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Highest Level of Education Completed
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How often did you replace your toothbrush as a child?
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How often do you currently brush your teeth?
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How often did you visit the dentist or other dental professional as a child?
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How often do you visit the dentist now?
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Generally, how would you describe the oral health of the population where you spent your childhood?
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Generally, the people in my childhood hometown know the importance of good oral health.
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People in my childhood hometown consider maintaining good oral health as easy.
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Generally, how would you describe the oral health of the population where you live now?
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Generally, the people where I live now know the importance of good oral health.
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People in my current hometown consider maintaining good oral health as easy.
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Generally, how would you describe your current oral health?
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Poor oral health is determined more by economic factors than poor oral health habits in Appalachia.
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Generally, the people in Appalachia know the importance of good oral health.
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The general public thinks that persons who live in Appalachia do not prioritize oral health.
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Within Appalachia, brushing and flossing is sufficient enough if one is without dental insurance.
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The people within Appalachia routinely receive dental care.
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How would you describe the oral health of Appalachia?