What Can Google Inform Us about People's Interests regarding Dental Caries in Different Populations?

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Abstract

The diagnosis or suspicion of dental caries can lead people to seek additional information on the Internet through the use of structured queries in search engine tools. This action generates a considerable volume of data, which can be analyzed to provide a better understanding of the public's behavior linked to the consumption of oral health information. This study aimed to assess the volume and profile of web searches on dental caries-related queries performed by Google users from different countries. The monthly variation of the Search Volume Index (SVI) for dental caries was obtained in Google Trends for the period between January 2004 and September 2016. The validity of SVI data was assessed by their levels of stability and correlation with the disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for permanent teeth. In all countries, a trend of an increasing interest of Google users in dental caries issues was revealed by the comparison of the means observed in the predictive models and those in the last 12 months. The interest levels varied throughout the year, with the observation of the highest SVI values in the spring and the lowest in the summer. The most popular queries were markedly associated with symptoms and treatments, with a little interest in prevention. In conclusion, the use of Internet data mining could be helpful in establishing the dental needs of specific population groups in a near real-time, since the web consumption of dental information is increasing in importance and appears to have a direct relation with untreated dental caries.

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