Denial or Decay?: An Oral Health Educational Program for Caregivers of Preschool Children

Monday, 9 November 2015

Audrey P. Miller, PhD, MSN Ed, ARNP, PPCNP-BC
Gabriella M. Riccio, BSN, RN
Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA





Background: Oral health care is the primary preventive method of tooth decay (caries or cavities) and infection in children below the age of five. Nonetheless, many children still suffer with multiple infectious tooth decay, unnecessary sedative extractions, and tooth loss; resulting in pain, nutritional concerns, and speech delays. The gap in the literature as it relates to caregiver knowledge towards oral health for their young children and the effects that preventive oral health care can contribute to a child’s healthy lifestyle are deficient.


Aims: To examine the effects of an oral health educational program on knowledge and behavior-specific cognitions and affect in caregivers of children ages two to five years-old.


Methods: Descriptive quasi-experimental study utilizing a pre-test post-test method, with a convenience sample of 425 Head Start (HS) caregivers from seven program sites in South Florida. The HS enrolled, English speaking family, attended one of 18 oral health educational programs. Research questions addressed the relationship between the oral health educational program and prior related behavior, personal factors, behavior-specific cognitions and affect, knowledge, and intent. Caregivers completed the demographic survey and oral health behavior questionnaire, a knowledge pre-test, then viewed a 16- minute video designed by Colgate®, and completed another knowledge post-test.


Results: There was an overall significant effect on caregivers’ prior related behaviors, r = .43, p (two-tailed) < .01; behavior-specific cognitions and affect, r = .43, p (two-tailed) < .01; intention to provide oral health care for their children, r = .27, p (two-tailed) < .01; and post-test for knowledge of oral health care (M = 60.57, SE = .30) compared to pre-test for knowledge (M = 59.03, SE = .26), t (399) = -6.35, p < .01, r = .30).


Conclusions: Educational program have a positive impact on caregivers to increase knowledge and intent to perform preventive oral health-promoting behaviors in this underserved population. Nursing practice will implement educational programs for caregivers and the opportunity to affect governmental policy that supports oral health care services for young children, as indicated by Healthy People 2020.