July 21, 2011
From Dental Tribune – July 20, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., USA: Users of the microblogging service Twitter are tweeting extensively about their dental problems, a nationwide survey in the US has shown. It also revealed that most of those complaining were seeing a dentist rather than seeking advice from other users or taking medication. The results of the survey could help health-care authorities to collect health data for research purposes and public health surveillance,the researchers hope.
Operated by a company in San Francisco and launched in 2006, Twitter is a free social networking site that allows its users, Twitterers or Tweeters, to post short messages of up to 140 characters online in real time. According to the social media news website mashable.com, over 200 million users worldwide have signed up for the service to date.
In order to collect randomized data, the researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, randomly selected 1,000 out of 4,859 tweets over seven non-consecutive days and searched for messages reporting about dental pain, action taken in response to toothache or its impact on the user’s daily life. While dental pain was reported in over 600 tweets, only 170 tweets discussed measures taken to resolve the problems, the report states. Advice from other users was generally avoided, with only 108 tweets actually having sought advice from the Twitter community.
The study results could be used to develop a method for authorities to use to collect data about dental problems and the way in which they are resolved within the population. Twitter is already used by health authorities like the Centers for Disease Control for delivering health messages and warnings to large populations.