We’ve probably all experienced it to some degree. Staring, glassy-eyed and befuddled, while someone is speaking so far above our heads that there is no hope of truly understanding what is being communicated to us.

It may not be a big deal in a lecture hall or an online course. But if it’s taking place in a doctor’s or dentist’s office and it’s a doctor explaining diagnosis or treatment to a patient? That’s a big deal.

Patients need to be able to understand what their dentists and doctors are telling them in order to make the best decisions regarding their health.

October is Health Literacy Month. The purpose of Health Literacy Month is to bring attention to the importance of making health information easy to understand — and making the healthcare system easier to navigate for consumers.

That said, it is also a great time to review oral health literacy best practices and American Dental Association (ADA) resources on the topic.

For Dentists

The ADA supports the use of several health literacy principles as well as the use of plain language for all patients and providers to make it easier for them to navigate, understand and use appropriate information and services to help patients be stewards of their oral health, according to ADA House of Delegates policy 69H-2016.

The ADA also maintains a webpage on ADA.org that includes a number of resources for health professionals on the importance health literacy and their role in promoting it within their practice.

Federal plain language guidelines, a Centers for Disease Control training course on the subject for health professionals, and scientific articles on the topic are among the items available for download on the site.

For Patients

The ADA also offers resources for patients related to health literacy and member dentists are encouraged to make this resource available to their patients.

The Association's consumer-friendly website, MouthHealthy.org, can be referred to for patient-friendly information about oral health during all life stages, nutrition as it relates to oral health, dental visits and dental symptoms.