To evaluate the quality and readability of online information about the treatment of burning mouth syndrome (BMS).
An internet search using the phrase "burning mouth syndrome treatment" was carried out on the Google search engine (www.google.co.uk) on 8 June 2015, and the first 100 websites listed were examined. Data collection included DISCERN score, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) benchmarks for website analysis score, the presence of the Health on the Net (HON) Foundation seal, and the Flesch Reading Ease Score (FRES). Descriptive statistics were performed using Microsoft Office Excel.
The search strategy initially yielded 635,000 links; following the application of the exclusion criteria, 53 sites remained for analysis. The overall DISCERN score varied between websites, with half of all websites achieving an overall score of 2 and none of these websites achieving the maximum score of 5. The mean score ± standard deviation (SD) was 2.4 ± 0.7. Only 10 (18.9%) of the websites achieved the four JAMA benchmarks while 3 (5.7%) of the websites did not achieve any of them. Only 9 (17%) displayed the HON seal. The FRES of the websites ranged from 32.4 to 82.2; the mean ± SD rating was 55.4 ± 10.7, which is considered to reflect fairly difficult reading.
The information available online about BMS is of questionable quality and content. Perhaps engaging patients in determining what type and format of information they desire when searching online for health information could guide clinicians and researchers alike in providing reliable and readable information sources.