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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Readability of pediatric health materials for preventive dental care

Rachel L Hendrickson1, Colleen E Huebner2 and Christine A Riedy1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Dental Public Health Sciences, School of Dentistry, University of Washington, 1959 NE Pacific St., Box 357475 Seattle, WA, USA

2 Department of Health Services, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, 1959 NE Pacific St., Box 35723, Seattle, WA, USA

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BMC Oral Health 2006, 6:14  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-6-14

Published: 16 November 2006

Abstract

Background

This study examined the content and general readability of pediatric oral health education materials for parents of young children.

Methods

Twenty-seven pediatric oral health pamphlets or brochures from commercial, government, industry, and private nonprofit sources were analyzed for general readability ("usability") according to several parameters: readability, (Flesch-Kincaid grade level, Flesch Reading Ease, and SMOG grade level); thoroughness, (inclusion of topics important to young childrens' oral health); textual framework (frequency of complex phrases, use of pictures, diagrams, and bulleted text within materials); and terminology (frequency of difficult words and dental jargon).

Results

Readability of the written texts ranged from 2nd to 9th grade. The average Flesch-Kincaid grade level for government publications was equivalent to a grade 4 reading level (4.73, range, 2.4 – 6.6); F-K grade levels for commercial publications averaged 8.1 (range, 6.9 – 8.9); and industry published materials read at an average Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 7.4 (range, 4.7 – 9.3). SMOG readability analysis, based on a count of polysyllabic words, consistently rated materials 2 to 3 grade levels higher than did the Flesch-Kincaid analysis. Government sources were significantly lower compared to commercial and industry sources for Flesch-Kincaid grade level and SMOG readability analysis. Content analysis found materials from commercial and industry sources more complex than government-sponsored publications, whereas commercial sources were more thorough in coverage of pediatric oral health topics. Different materials frequently contained conflicting information.

Conclusion

Pediatric oral health care materials are readily available, yet their quality and readability vary widely. In general, government publications are more readable than their commercial and industry counterparts. The criteria for usability and results of the analyses presented in this article can be used by consumers of dental educational materials to ensure that their choices are well-suited to their specific patient population.