Public health surveillance of dental pain via Twitter

N. Heaivilin, B. Gerbert, J. E. Page, J. L. Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

On Twitter, people answer the question, "What are you doing right now?" in no more than 140 characters. We investigated the content of Twitter posts meeting search criteria relating to dental pain. A set of 1000 tweets was randomly selected from 4859 tweets over 7 non-consecutive days. The content was coded using pre-established, non-mutually-exclusive categories, including the experience of dental pain, actions taken or contemplated in response to a toothache, impact on daily life, and advice sought from the Twitter community. After excluding ambiguous tweets, spam, and repeat users, we analyzed 772 tweets and calculated frequencies. Of the sample of 772 tweets, 83% (n = 640) were primarily categorized as a general statement of dental pain, 22% (n = 170) as an action taken or contemplated, and 15% (n = 112) as describing an impact on daily activities. Among the actions taken or contemplated, 44% (n = 74) reported seeing a dentist, 43% (n = 73) took an analgesic or antibiotic medication, and 14% (n = 24) actively sought advice from the Twitter community. Twitter users extensively share health information relating to dental pain, including actions taken to relieve pain and the impact of pain. This new medium may provide an opportunity for dental professionals to disseminate health information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1047-1051
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of dental research
Volume90
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011

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Keywords

  • Twitter
  • odontalgia
  • pain
  • social networking
  • surveillance
  • toothache

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)

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