Abstract

Objectives

This study developed and tested an intervention to help parents establish a routine of brushing their young children’s teeth twice a day.

Methods

Community-based participatory research methods were used to engage parents in the design of the intervention to maximize its relevance and acceptability to others. Input was obtained by interviews and focus groups. The resulting intervention was four 90-min small-group sessions that provided educational information, direct instruction, practice and peer-to-peer problem-solving. A pre- to post-non-randomized design was used to evaluate the intervention’s effect to increase or maintain parents’ twice daily brushing.

Results

Intervention participants were 67 primary caregivers of children under six years of age. Of the 67 initial participants, 50 completed a post-intervention questionnaire administered 4 to 8 weeks following the intervention. The proportion of parents who reported brushing their young children’s teeth twice a day increased significantly from 59 per cent prior to the intervention to 89 per cent post-intervention (McNemar’s X2 = 10.71, P = 0.002). There were concomitant and statistically significant increases over the study period in parents’ confidence for brushing twice a day, attitudes about the importance of brushing and their self-efficacy for tooth brushing. Parents’ knowledge of children’s oral health, assessed by a 15-item scale developed for this study (‘Things to Know About Baby Teeth’), also increased significantly.

Conclusions

Twice daily tooth brushing is a low-cost, effective strategy to reduce the risk of childhood caries. As demonstrated here, community-based efforts can help parents achieve this important health behaviour.

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