Tapping into the desire to have an attractive smile is the best motivator for improving oral hygiene, and new immigrants are the most receptive to oral health messages, according to a new study to be published in the October 2008 Journal of Consumer Research.
Authors Shuili Du of Simmons College, Sankar Sen of City University of New York, and C.B. Bhattacharya of Boston University evaluated the effectiveness of an oral health outreach program in disadvantaged communities. They found that focusing on the social benefits of having a beautiful smile was the most effective strategy for improving dental hygiene habits among participants.
"Our findings suggest that, among children from less acculturated families, participation in this oral health program leads to not only more favorable beliefs about the health-related (preventing cavities and gum diseases) and psychosocial (beautiful smile and self-confidence) benefits of oral care behavior, but also an increase in oral care behavior such as brushing, flossing, and dental checkups," the authors wrote.
The research found that families that had been in the U.S. longer were less responsive to the program's messages than new immigrants.