Exploring Public Perceptions of Dental Care Affordability in the United States: Mixed Method Analysis via Twitter

Shahen Yashpal, Ananditha Raghunath, Nihan Gencerliler, Lorel E. Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Dental care expenses are reported to present higher financial barriers than any other type of health care service in the United States. Social media platforms such as Twitter have become a source of public health communication and surveillance. Previous studies have demonstrated the usefulness of Twitter in exploring public opinion on aspects of dental care. To date, no studies have leveraged Twitter to examine public sentiments regarding dental care affordability in the United States. Objective: The aim of this study is to understand public perceptions of dental care affordability in the United States on the social media site, Twitter. Methods: Tweets posted between September 1, 2017, and September 30, 2021, were collected using the Snscrape application. Query terms were selected a priori to represent dentistry and financial aspects associated with dental treatment. Data were analyzed qualitatively using both deductive and inductive approaches. In total, 8% (440/5500) of all included tweets were coded to identify prominent themes and subthemes. The entire sample of included tweets were then independently coded into thematic categories. Quantitative data analyses included geographic distribution of tweets by state, volume analysis of tweets over time, and distribution of tweets by content theme. Results: A final sample of 5314 tweets were included in the study. Thematic analysis identified the following prominent themes: (1) general sentiments (1614 tweets, 30.4%); (2) delaying or forgoing dental care (1190 tweets, 22.4%); (3) payment strategies (1019 tweets, 19.2%); (4) insurance (767 tweets, 14.4%); and (5) policy statements (724 tweets, 13.6%). Geographic distributions of the tweets established California, Texas, Florida, and New York as the states with the most tweets. Qualitative analysis revealed barriers faced by individuals to accessing dental care, strategies taken to cope with dental pain, and public perceptions on aspects of dental care policy. The volume and thematic trends of the tweets corresponded to relevant societal events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and debates on health care policy resulting from the election of President Joseph R. Biden. Conclusions: The findings illustrate the real-time sentiment of social media users toward the cost of dental treatment and suggest shortcomings in funding that may be representative of greater systemic failures in the provision of dental care. Thus, this study provides insights for policy makers and dental professionals who strive to increase access to dental care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere36315
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Volume6
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

Keywords

  • access to care
  • COVID-19
  • dental care
  • dental professional
  • dental treatment
  • dentistry
  • health care service
  • health communication
  • health policy
  • healthcare reform
  • oral health
  • public health
  • social media
  • thematic analysis
  • twitter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Informatics

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