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Parental low oral health literacy is thought to contribute to child oral health disparities. Few large-scale interventions can improve oral health literacy for diverse, high-risk populations. We sought to determine whether an oral health literacy intervention aimed at parents of children attending Head Start programs improved oral health literacy and behaviors. Staff from 29 Head Start agencies across the country were trained to deliver a parent oral health literacy intervention. Parent surveys were conducted at baseline and approximately 6 months later, following intervention completion. Surveys measured parent and child demographics, oral health knowledge, behaviors, information sources, and health care utilization. Paired t tests and mixed-effects regression models controlling for agency, child age, and race/ethnicity evaluated whether measures improved after the intervention. In addition, at follow-up, agency staff were asked to complete an open-ended survey reporting how the intervention impacted their site. Responses were coded using a grounded theory approach. A total of 2,011 (87%) parents completed both the baseline and follow-up surveys. All oral health knowledge and behaviors improved significantly from baseline to follow-up. In addition, parents reported using more oral health information sources, using more preventative oral health care, and less emergency room (ER) use for child dental problems. Head Start staff perceived that the intervention increased parental oral health literacy, enhanced parental oral health engagement, improved child oral health behaviors, and facilitated health communication with parents. Findings suggest that this intervention successfully improved oral health literacy for diverse parents of children at high risk for dental caries. © 2020 American Association of Public Health Dentistry.


Rebecca Dudovitz, Carol Teutsch, Katrina Holt, Ariella Herman. Improving parent oral health literacy in Head Start programs. Journal of public health dentistry. 2020 Jun;80(2):150-158

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PMID: 32083725

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