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Jenna Thomson
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A Content Analysis of Webpages on Diet and Dental Caries Obtained Using Popular Internet Search Engines
Names, Organizational Affiliations, and Locations of all Authors
J. Thomson1, L. Forbes2, K. Alphonsus3, P. Papagerakis4, J. Lieffers1;
1 College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK 2Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON 3School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, 4College of Dentistry, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK
Dental caries is the most common chronic disease worldwide; diet can both promote (e.g., sugar) and be protective towards dental caries (e.g., vegetables and fruit). The public commonly uses the Internet to access health information. Studies that have evaluated content of webpages on diet and dental caries available through Internet searches are limited.
Objective(s)/Process or Summary of Content
To assess the readability and messaging regarding diet and dental caries obtained from webpages found using Internet search engines.
Method(s)/Systemic Approach Used
Three Internet search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) were each searched four times in June/2020 using Google Chrome Incognito mode with keywords related to diet and dental caries. Webpages on the first search results page containing information on diet and dental caries, and were not scientific/peer-reviewed articles were eligible for inclusion.
Webpages were downloaded and underwent content analysis. Webpages underwent readability assessment using an online tool.
Overall, 47 webpages were included; six webpages were Canadian. The average Flesch Kincaid Grade Level 8.9±2.0. Sugar was mentioned in 94% of webpages; 64% of webpages identified dairy products and vegetables and fruits each as protective towards dental caries. Mixed messaging was present in some webpages when discussing certain foods (e.g., milk, dried fruit). Although most webpages promoted evidence-based information, non- evidence based recommendations (e.g., avoiding grains, consuming raw dairy) were common in 10 webpages.
These results suggest the public is likely exposed to evidence-based information but also potentially non-evidence based information and confusing messages when searching the Internet for information on this topic. The average webpage readability score was above a grade 6 level.
Significance to Dietetics
Collaboration between dietitians, oral health professionals, and others is needed to ensure the public is provided with the best/most accessible information on diet and dental caries when using the Internet to make informed health decisions.
Funded by
Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation Establishment Grant
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