Perceptions of Oral Health in Appalachian Kentucky: Implications for Message Design

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We conducted three studies to investigate Appalachian college students’ perceptions and behavior concerning oral health for the purpose of identifying salient factors to consider in designing persuasive messages to promote oral health. In Study 1, we conducted seven focus groups with 67 college students at a state university in Appalachian Kentucky. Using thematic analysis, we found that students based their oral health behavior on the perception that people living in Appalachia have poor oral health and that students denied, confirmed, reframed, or fulfilled this “misconception.” In Study 2, quantitative results from a representative survey of students (N = 587) at the same university indicated that the barriers to enacting good oral health behavior were primarily logistical in nature, whereas the facilitators of good oral health behavior were largely social. In Study 3, results from dental screenings (N = 364) of students at the university demonstrated that about one in five students presented with active, visible decay. We discuss how these results inform our understanding of oral health behavior in Appalachia and the implications of these results for designing messages to promote oral health in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-195
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded through the Appalachian Rural Dental Education Partnership (ARDEP) program through the Appalachian Regional Commission. The authors appreciate the contributions of the ARDEP team from Morehead State University led by Dr. Gerald DeMoss and Dr. Brenda Wilburn. The authors also appreciate Christa Blackwell’s assistance with qualitative data analysis.

Publisher Copyright:
© Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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