The Role of Mass Media in Oral Health Education
As a society, we have come to recognise that good oral health means more than bright white teeth and an attractive smile. Poor oral health, a lack of dental care and untreated oral diseases can affect an individual’s ability to speak, smile, kiss, chew, maintain proper nutrition, attend school or go to work. In addition, the mouth is as important to overall health status as any other part of the body. Several diseases, including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and chronic kidney disease, and HIV/AIDS show symptoms that can be detected during a routine dental check-up.
As a dental care professional, I recognise that good oral health practices are necessary from young age to ensure positive long-term dental health and hygiene. Therefore: “Positively influencing the knowledge, attitude and behaviours towards sustainable good oral health requires an integrated health education and health promotion approach.”10 Improving knowledge of dental health in our society can, and is, being achieved through oral health promotion and education. The media has a huge impact on society and public opinion, and as discussed earlier, it can change public opinion, attitude and behavior. Unfortunately, ‘NHS Effectiveness of oral health promotion bulletin’ in 1997 stated that:”Although little evaluative research has been published, the available evidence indicates that mass media campaigns are ineffective for promoting either knowledge or behavior change. ..they may have some value in raising awareness and agenda setting as part of an overall health promotion strategy”.11 This leads me thinking that knowledge, attitudes and behavior change can be achieved by using mass media communication supported by oral health professional input. As mentioned in Oxford Journal: “..interpersonal education alone has limited capacity in producing large population shifts, whereas combined with mass communication it can contribute effectively to the promotion of health. More specifically, mass media has been identified as a possible vehicle for dental health education at a national level, and it can provide information and increase the awareness of individuals with respect to specific issues”.12 With technology constantly advancing, there are many types of communication in which the information can reach the audience, from traditionally used for many decades - billboards, newspapers, TV, Radio, public speaking, event organizing to – new-age media such as – internet (blogs, websites, emails, internet TV and many more) and mobile phones, with Television being most popular, quickest and effective way in marketing the products.
Nevertheless, I find that there is not enough, if any, information available about general oral health i.e. tooth brushing, acid erosion, use of fluoride etc. and the main reason behind that is insufficient finance backup from government institutions, such as NHS, which would pay for these adverts and press releases. Media is great at what it does by marketing various products that we buy in order to maintain our dental appearance, especially cosmetic products, such as whitening toothpastes, whitening home-kits, tooth brushes and mouthwashes. …
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