School-based interventions can help students, parents, teachers, school nurses, and administrators promote oral health by providing programs, policies, and environments that support healthy lifestyles (e.g., brushing and flossing teeth, eating a balanced nutrition, and quitting tobacco use). Schools are also useful resources for increasing education and resources in the broader community (e.g., educating parents about oral health, providing a place for dental services for community members). School-based interventions offer a unique opportunity to make changes to the physical environment. For example, parents and teachers may advocate reducing the availability of high sugar foods and drinks in school vending machines.
Previous work in school-based settings has found:
- Many schools communicate regularly with students, teachers, and parents (e.g., parent newsletters, Channel One programming, student newspapers, daily announcements), which can easily be used to encourage oral health behaviors.
- Schools may be well-suited for oral health education programs because they assess and store information on individuals (e.g., students, employees) and communication systems for these individuals are already in place. These settings make it easy to distribute individually tailored information to participants.
- School-based oral health interventions can often be a more appropriate learning environment for children and adolescents than a medical setting.
- Oral health education interventions implemented in schools have the capacity to reach a population that might not otherwise have access to clinical services.
- School children represent a captive audience that is eager to learn new ideas. Providing oral health education in schools during the developmental years will reach students when they are beginning to make their own lifestyle choices.
- Success and ownership are maintained when schools develop their own implementation plan, work out problems, have broad involvement among teachers and staff, and reach their own solutions.
- Teachers, if motivated by the oral health professionals, can be effectively used as a priority group in rural health education campaigns to implement sound oral health practices among children. Coordinated efforts need to be made between school personnel and oral health educators.
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