Analysis of types and language used in online information available to patients with periodontitis

Beaumont, Jo and Cook, Neil orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9738-9582 (2023) Analysis of types and language used in online information available to patients with periodontitis. British Dental Journal (BDJ), 234 (4). pp. 253-258. ISSN 0007-0610

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This research investigates framing in online patient information for those newly diagnosed with periodontitis.

This study is a cross-sectional analysis of websites using corpus linguistic techniques. A ‘Google’ search was conducted with the term ‘gum disease.’ 10 pages of search results were reviewed and information available was separated into types of resource: retail, healthcare, and dental practice websites. The dataset was analysed in terms of word frequency, collocation and keyness as compared to the British National Corpus (BNC) Written Sampler. Differences between sources were assessed.

Across combined data sources, there was a tendency for the most advanced symptoms of periodontitis to be given prominence. There was also a negative skew towards avoidance of negative outcomes of treatment rather than achieving positive ones. When comparing types of resource, retail websites tended to be more positive with a focus on improving ‘milder’ stages of disease.

Negative framing could potentially induce engagement with treatment and self-care by the process of ‘fear-appeal,’ however there is a risk that negativity demotivates an already anxious patient. Further research is required to evaluate patient perceptions of the information and to investigate effects this could have on behaviour change.

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