Objectives: To determine oral health literacy (OHL) levels and explore potential racial differences in a low-income population.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of caregiver/child dyads that completed a structured 30-minute in-person interview conducted by two trained interviewers in seven counties in North Carolina. Sociodemographic, OHL, and dental health-related data were collected. OHL was measured with a dental word recognition test [Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Dentistry (REALD-30)]. Descriptive, bivariate, and multivariate methods were used to examine the distribution of OHL and explore racial differences.
Results: Of 1,658 eligible subjects, 1,405 (85 percent) participated and completed the interviews. The analytic sample (N = 1,280) had mean age 26.5 (standard deviation = 6.9) years with 60 percent having a high school degree or less. OHL varied between racial groups as follows: Whites – mean score = 17.4 (SE = 0.2); African-American (AA) – mean score = 15.3 [standard error (SE) = 0.2]; American Indian (AI) – mean score = 13.7 (SE = 0.3). Multiple linear regression revealed that after controlling for education, county of residence, age, and Hispanic ethnicity, Whites had 2.0 points (95 percent CI = 1.4, 2.6) higher adjusted REALD-30 score versus AA and AI.
Conclusions: Differences in OHL levels between racial groups persisted after adjusting for education and sociodemographic characteristics.