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What does my patient think during COVID-19? A twitter analysis

May 26, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, on the 23rd of March 2020 the British Dental Association and UK Chief Dental Officers advised dentists to temporarily close their doors for all but emergency cases. On 30th March, the SDCEP released a guide for dentists to define dental emergency treatments and care pathways. In this rapidly changing environment, timely information is critical to guide evidence-informed decision making. Understanding of the public experience of dental services should form part of that decision making. We are undertaking a social media analysis of twitter communications to understand the public’s dental problems and awareness of what to do about such problems. This work will inform preparations for remobilisation of dental services.  Download a PDF of the protocol for the research.

Preliminary findings (subject to change)

The focus is on tweets from members of the public (e.g., patients, third sector representatives) and those who directed their communication at the members of the public (e.g., dental practices, dentists). The initial findings are based on n=540 mentions, published within two time periods (20.03.20 to 12.04.20; and 11.05.20 to 18.05.20), the majority expressed by users based in England.

Emerging themes mostly concern:

  • impacts on oral health (e.g., types of dental problems, methods of delaying treatment, uncertainties around self- and others-care).
  • dental services (e.g., uncertainties around getting help locally and practices re-opening, variable access to care, aspects of satisfaction with care, beliefs about safety of dental procedures, acceptability of NHS treatment options).
  • and wider socio-political debates (e.g., dentistry being less supported than other healthcare sectors, COVID as the highest order priority).