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IHS Division of Oral Health ECC Collaborative

What is Oral Health Literacy?

"The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic oral health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions." 1

IHS Oral Health Literacy Initiative

Oral health literacy involves patients, caregivers, providers, and the entire healthcare system. It's a key component of overall health, and one that is often overlooked. Health literacy is the necessary link for creating effective communication and education to increase primary and secondary preventive regimens. Our role as dental health professionals involves much more than simply handing patients a brochure or telling them about their medical or dental condition. Fortunately, there are a wealth of training materials and resources available (see tabs on left side) for you and your staff to improve your understanding of health literacy and improve communication skills. Efforts to improve your patients' health literacy have the potential to make a lasting impact on their overall health and wellbeing.

The IHS Division of Oral Health has created a new national initiative, the IHS Oral Health Literacy Initiative. The goal of the IHS Oral Health Literacy Initiative is to give oral health providers tools to improve oral health literacy among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Our theme for this initiative is SMILE — Sharing oral health Messages to Improve Literacy for Everyone.

Please review information on this website to learn more about this important topic and become a local oral health literacy champion.

IHS Oral Health Literacy Initiative Brochure - For Oral Health Professionals (PDF - 671KB)

1 IOM (Insitute of Medicine). 2011. Advancing Oral Health in America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

A nationwide initiative aimed at giving oral health providers tools to improve oral health literacy among American Indians and Alaska Natives, sponsored by the Indian Health Services Division of Oral Health.

Initiative Information

  • Educational Materials — Patient handouts on a variety of dental topics developed by Albuquerque Dental Support Center.
  • Resources — Links to oral health literacy topics such as teach-back technique, effective writing, and improving the health literacy environment.
  • Presentations — Links to IHS PowerPoint presentations on oral health literacy.
  • Articles — Articles about oral health literacy.
  • Videos — Videos about topics such as teach-back technique and health literacy.

If you have any difficulties with this website, contact DOH Portal Administrator.