MDSC: Public Health Dentistry
There is little literature on the maintenance and reinforcement of positive dietary and oral health behaviours for 3-7 year olds. However, promotion of self-care strategies to pre-and early primary school children appears to be the logical start in the process of developing and maintaining good oral health throughout life.
Through our increased understanding of the link to oral diseases and human behaviours, and the increasing spread of multi-media and information technologies, oral health promotion in all its forms needs to become the driving force behind behavioural interventions and social strategies directed at the different lifestyles of specific age groups. Increasingly, professional bodies, such as the Australian Dental Association (NSW Branch), are looking to the commercial sector to implement and analyse various oral health programs, as well as marketing and raising the profile of the dental profession. Commercial dental health promotion for 3-7 year olds is a subject that has been neglected in dental public health studies; as evidenced by the lack of literature, research material or scientifically based studies. Yet, there is an abundance of oral health care media advertisements, products and merchandising from the commercial sector that the average 3-7 year old, and their parents, come into contact with each day, without any social cohesive format.
This social format should include:
- A wide variety of approved oral and general health care products
- Marketing and advertising of these products, with the appropriate means and messages, that can enhance and reinforce school or target group programs
- Television programming for young children that only encourage healthy lifestyles and habits
- The role of the dental health professional
As seen from the literature, most school based dental education and promotion programs have no longitudinal reinforcement or assessment.
These are areas where commercial dental health promotion, in the form of:
- Media advertisements for “junior” toothpaste, and associated products such as toothbrushes, floss and fluoride which incorporate basic dental health information and techniques, and are replayed in various forms many times daily
- The 3-7 year olds first dental appointment in private practice
- Programs requested by the ADA (NSW Branch), from the private sector, such as the Tooth Fairy Program
- Commercial, education, entertainment vehicles such as Tooth Brush Family (TBF) cartoons series 1&2
Could provide the increased awareness, motivation and reinforcement that school-based programs cannot maintain
Government policy should interact with the commercial sector by promoting:
- Sales and tax benefits for oral health care products
- Television advertisements during 3-7 year old, prime-time viewing that encourage a preconceived social format of general health, with the appropriate means and messages provided
- Television programs for 3- 7 year olds that reinforce and help maintain oral and general health programs that have been initiated in pre- and primary schools
- The private and public dental sectors in new and unique ways via funds and technology allocated to programs such as the Commonwealth Dental Health Program (CDHP). These programs, if structured correctly could become self-funding
Knowledge of social and developmental factors can improve the development of commercial oral health promotion. These factors assist in identifying the appropriate behavioural messages that need to be promoted to 3-7 year olds. The result is likely to be increased efficacy, cost containment, and satisfaction by the decision- makers and the community at large.