Oral health beliefs and behavior among young adults in Appalachian Kentucky

Matthew W. Savage, Allison M. Scott, Joanna A. Aalboe, Sharlee Burch, Pamela Sparks Stein VanArsdall, Raynor Mullins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We used communication infrastructure theory to investigate oral health beliefs and behavior among young adults in Appalachian Kentucky. We conducted 7 focus groups with 67 participants who reported poor oral health behavior, but this was not necessarily the result of poor oral health knowledge. Participants identified several sociocultural factors affecting their oral health, including lack of oral health prioritization among older generations, and risky health behaviors that competed with good oral health. These sociocultural factors create a context in which standard oral health recommendations are commonly seen as excessive. Participants described various responses to the poor oral health in the region, including fatalism and a distrust of dentists, and that oral healthcare professionals may be using potentially problematic communication tactics. Practical implications for designing effective oral health promotion campaigns in the region and theoretical implications for developing social-contextual frameworks of oral health promotion are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-134
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 National Communication Association.


  • Appalachian health
  • Health and culture
  • communication infrastructure theory
  • dentist–patient communication
  • oral health disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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