Literacy, pregnancy and potential oral health changes: the Internet and readability levels

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The purpose of this study is to evaluate the readability level and content of articles concerning pregnancy and the periodontium which are presented on internet websites. Websites were selected from Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The sites which were excluded were: commercial sites; blogs; dental office sites; sites with articles having fewer than 20 sentences; duplicated search results; and non-secure sites (N = 137). The grade level was determined from the SMOG reading index. Content was scored for specific pregnancy related periodontal content. The mean reading level was 8th grade. The mean number of words with 3 or more syllables in 20 sentences was 38.90. Articles written below the 8th grade level were more likely to recommend brushing twice a day and using a soft-bristled brush. Articles at or above the 8th grade level were more likely to discuss preterm birth and periodontal disease. One article from a national dental organization and 3 from government sites were returned from the searches. Internet articles are written across the literary spectrum. Dental organizations were not adequately represented. Many advertisements, .coms, and non-secure sites pose challenges in seeking health information. Although the internet is a useful tool, practitioners need to provide trustworthy, useful information during clinical visits and encourage national and state medical and dental organizations to provide content in response to search terms that would be typically used.