Investigating Knowledge, Motivational and Behavioural Effects of Providing Oral Health Information to Pre/Post Natal Parents
Mount Saint Vincent University
Despite an improvement in oral health status in recent decades, dental decay is still the most common preventable chronic childhood disease worldwide. Decay-causing bacteria can be transferred from parent to child within the first two years of a child’s life. Left untreated, decay can result in pain, speech disorders and tooth loss, problems with chewing and damage to the adult teeth. Early intervention may be improved by understanding the effects of oral health education on the knowledge, motivation and behaviours of pre/postnatal parents. The purpose of this study was 1) to investigate whether providing an oral health educational intervention results in improvements in oral health knowledge among pre/postnatal parents and caregivers, and 2) to explore the motivations and attitudes of parents towards oral health. This research used a mixed methods design that included a pre-post intervention component and a semi-structured interview. The study was conducted in two phases. In Phase I, participants attended an oral health education session where oral health knowledge and attitudes were assessed prior to and immediately following the education session. In Phase II, participants were offered a free dental cleaning and invited to participate in a brief semi-structured interview regarding their oral health motivations and behaviours. Phase II participants also completed a second postquestionnaire assessment of oral health knowledge and attitudes. Thirty-three participants attended the oral health educations sessions and completed Phase I; of these 33 participants, five chose to complete Phase II. The education session was effective at improving participants' total knowledge scores. Scores iii on the 13 questions increased significantly, from 7.70±2.64 (mean±SD) (median 7) before the education session, to 11.24 ±2.27 (mean±SD) (median 12), immediately after the session (Wilcoxon test; p<0.001). The knowledge was retained into Phase II. The overall themes that emerged from interviews are 1) participants are knowledgeable about the importance of oral health, 2) they believe that their teeth and their children’s teeth are important, however 3) factors such as income, education, and social support influence the adoption of positive oral health behaviours. In summary, oral health education is successful at increasing parents’ knowledge but provides minimal increases to motivation and changing attitudes. More research needs to be conducted on ways to increase parent and patient motivation towards improved oral health behaviours. Collaboration between medical and dental health practices may be one way of increasing parent’s awareness of their options and duties in providing oral health care to their children.
Oral health information, pre/post natal parents, dental decay