Journal of Medical Internet Research (Jun 2020)

Nature and Diffusion of COVID-19–related Oral Health Information on Chinese Social Media: Analysis of Tweets on Weibo

  • Tao, Zhuo-Ying,
  • Chu, Guang,
  • McGrath, Colman,
  • Hua, Fang,
  • Leung, Yiu Yan,
  • Yang, Wei-Fa,
  • Su, Yu-Xiong

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 22, no. 6
p. e19981


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BackgroundSocial media has become increasingly important as a source of information for the public and is widely used for health-related information. The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has exerted a negative impact on dental practices. ObjectiveThe aim of this study is to analyze the nature and diffusion of COVID-19–related oral health information on the Chinese social media site Weibo. MethodsA total of 15,900 tweets related to oral health and dentistry information from Weibo during the COVID-19 outbreak in China (December 31, 2019, to March 16, 2020) were included in our study. Two researchers coded 1000 of the total tweets in advance, and two main thematic categories with eight subtypes were refined. The included tweets were analyzed over time and geographic region, and coded into eight thematic categories. Additionally, the time distributions of tweets containing information about dental services, needs of dental treatment, and home oral care during the COVID-19 epidemic were further analyzed. ResultsPeople reacted rapidly to the emerging severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 threat to dental services, and a large amount of COVID-19–related oral health information was tweeted on Weibo. The time and geographic distribution of tweets shared similarities with epidemiological data of the COVID-19 outbreak in China. Tweets containing home oral care and dental services content were the most frequently exchanged information (n=4803/15,900, 30.20% and n=4478, 28.16%, respectively). Significant differences of public attention were found between various types of bloggers in dental services–related tweets (P<.001), and the tweets from the government and media engaged the most public attention. The distributions of tweets containing information about dental services, needs of dental treatment, and home oral care information dynamically changed with time. ConclusionsOur study overviewed and analyzed social media data on the dental services and oral health information during the COVID-19 epidemic, thus, providing insights for government organizations, media, and dental professionals to better facilitate oral health communication and efficiently shape public concern through social media when routine dental services are unavailable during an unprecedented event. The study of the nature and distribution of social media can serve as a useful adjunct tool to help make public health policies.