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A.T. Still dental student wins ADA Health Literacy Essay Contest

March 04, 2019

By Kimber Solana

Kirksville, Mo. — Catilin Rosemann believes the way dentists communicate with their patients can be a determining factor for either poor or great oral health.

“I’ve seen times where patients don’t make informed decisions for treatment plans just because they don’t fully understand what is being described to them,” said Ms. Rosemann, a second-year dental student at A.T. Still University – Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health.

“The dentist can be a scary place for people, but if we can communicate in an effective, easy-to-understand manner, we can help alleviate this,” she added.

Ms. Rosemann demonstrated her own ability to communicate effectively in winning the fourth annual ADA Health Literacy Essay Contest, which is sponsored by the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention. Her essay, which yielded a $500 prize, is published on the ADA’s consumer website,

The contest aims to help dental students learn and practice communicating effectively with their patients by using plain language, rather than scientific words or jargon, to explain a certain topic.

For the first time, all U.S. dental schools accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation were invited to participate in the contest this year. Dental students were asked to research scientific literature on the topic “Cavities: What Are They and How Do We Prevent Them,” and then write a 500-700 word essay.

Ms. Rosemann’s essay, Cavities: What Are They and How Do We Prevent Them?, explains in plain language the causes of cavities, who’s at risk, how cavities are treated and how to prevent them.

The essay also included a diagram of the stages of a cavity, showcasing how acid — created by bacteria feeding off the foods and sugar people eat — ultimately wears down the various layers of a tooth.

“I wanted to use a graphic to help describe the stages of a cavity as I felt this was the most difficult concept to understand,” Ms. Rosemann said. “I searched around on Google and couldn’t find anything that was worded simply or what I wanted. So I used my Apple Pencil and my iPad and drew my own graphic.”

The runners-up for the contest, each receiving $250, were Steven Lin, Touro College of Dental Medicine at New York Medical College; Kurt Corsbie, University of Michigan School of Dentistry; Courtney Rose, University of North Carolina School of Dentistry; and Ashly Okoli, Texas A&M College of Dentistry. This is the fourth year that the ADA held a health literacy essay contest. The pilot began in 2015 by the suggestion of Dr. Sorin Teich, associate dean of clinical operations and associate professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine.

For more information about health literacy or the essay contest, visit