Date of Conferral





Public Health


Lori L. Dewald


This study sought to identify the level of oral health literacy held by people who live in transitional and distressed Kentucky Appalachian areas and if this effects how often they are using oral hygiene techniques. Data were also collected to describe the attitudes Kentucky Appalachian adults hold toward oral hygiene and oral health status. Current documentation shows that poor oral health remains a public health threat in this population despite efforts such as school-based sealant programs and increased dental insurance coverage. This study followed a quantitative design and 99 participants were polled using a survey specifically developed for this study's use. Composite median scores and Spearman's correlation values established the existence of a low oral health literacy level across the participant pool, an also documented that oral hygiene techniques are not used in frequencies recommended for proper oral health. A poor self-efficacy towards the ability to utilize these techniques properly was also identified. Using the Mann-Whitney U test, responses were compared based on county designation and few significant differences were found. These findings show that oral health status and related beliefs are similar across the region and not just isolated to the economically poorest areas as the currently available literature suggests. Applying the health belief model it is predicted that Kentucky Appalachians are unlikely to adopt proper oral hygiene habits until their self-efficacy is improved. A recommendation of this study is that public health officials should promote personal control when designing public health programs geared towards improving the oral health status of this population. To do so would introduce a positive social change in that people with good oral health are less likely to experience the pain, malnutrition, and negative social stigma that is associated with poor oral health.