Public Health Surveillance of Dental Pain via Twitter

Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0758, USA.
Journal of dental research (Impact Factor: 4.14). 09/2011; 90(9):1047-51. DOI: 10.1177/0022034511415273
Source: PubMed


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.

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Available from: Jennifer L Gibbs, Aug 05, 2015
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    • "These words likely contribute to the negative sentiment analysis for this category. The other categories are largely made up of positive words, descriptive of the positive experiences in nature.Further mapping of these common words as well as thematic analysis of complete tweets is beyond the scope of this paper, but has been fruitful in other public health contexts including dental pain surveillance[59], surveillance of the dissemination of information around H1N1 during an outbreak[60]and analysis of misunderstandings about and the misuse of antibiotics[61]. "

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    • "Achrekar and colleagues (2011), for example, track Twitter posts containing mentions of influenza in order to create a realtime illustration of the spread of the illness. Heaivilin and colleagues (2011) use Twitter data as a means of gathering information on the prevalence of oral health problems and the actions taken to remedy them. Golder and Macy (2011) approach Twitter from a mental health perspective and use data collected from this platform as a means of tracking how sleep patterns and day length impact individuals' moods. "
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    • "We discovered much more prevalent directions towards tweets which contain links/URLs for either self-help or connecting sufferers with dental professionals who can help. (Heaivilin et al., 2011) categorize these tweets as Spam, but their prevalence was much higher in our study and as such indicates how the use of the Twitter platform has changed. We agree that these tweets target potential dental pain sufferers because they do not appear as particular re-tweets, but we should advocate them if we aim to raise awareness that dental pain should not be ignored at all. "
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper we give the result of our qualitative analysis of tweets which focus on dental pain for the purpose of finding if a) Twitter is being used as a platform for disseminating information about dental pain amongst sufferers and dental professionals and b) we can raise awareness about the danger of dental pain amongst the wider population by tweeting and re-tweeting, i.e. by creating real time information. Our study showed two distinctive results. Dental pain sufferers are very active in their attempts to express distress caused by dental pain and their inability to cope with it. It is disappointing that there are very small numbers of (re)tweets where dental professionals engage and raise awareness about the danger of dental pain. This research has also found that we can use analytic tools run upon tweets in order to detect and engage in health-oriented question-and-answer tasks on Twitter and think about new ways of creating probabilistic topic modeling from tweets in future.
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