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K–12 Oral Health Education

Photo of a teacher with children in the classroom

These selected resources offer high-quality information about oral health education for children and adolescents in kindergarten through 12th grade. Use the tools below for further searching, or contact us for personalized assistance.

Key Facts

  Share these facts to help improve the oral health of children, adolescents, and their families.

  • Schools are the intersection of public health programs, oral health care, and self-care. Schools therefore have a unique opportunity to enhance students’ health literacy, including oral health literacy. 1
  • Oral health education should be a required part of public school health education. 2
  • When included in the school curricula, health literacy and oral health literacy provide information, understanding, and skills needed to protect and improve the health status of students, staff, families, and communities. 1
  • Community interventions have the potential to improve oral health by treating groups rather than individuals. Examples of interventions include school-based oral health care programs and public health nutritional campaigns to prevent or reduce the prevalence of caries, periodontal disease, and other preventable oral health problems. 3
  • Childhood and adolescence are periods when lifelong oral-health-related behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes are being developed, which means that this is an ideal time during which to provide oral health education at school. 4
  • Even with a modest curriculum commitment, dental students have the capacity to work with schools in the areas of oral health education and oral heath promotion. 5
  • Partnerships between school nurses and dental hygiene programs can result in benefits for both children and adolescents enrolled in the school and dental hygiene students; children and adolescents from underserved groups receive oral health care, and dental hygiene students develop skills. 6
  • Schools can partner with dental hygiene programs to teach children with special health care needs to cooperate with oral care procedures to support their oral health and overall health. 6
  • Conducting classroom experiments to learn about the tooth-decay process provides elementary school teachers with an opportunity to achieve multiple learning objectives, including teaching students about chemistry and communicating important concepts about oral health and overall health. 7
  • Improving children’s brushing behavior starts with understanding their motivations for achieving good oral health. 8

References

  1. Braun B, Horowitz AM, Kleinman DV, Gold RS, Radice SD, Maybury C. 2012. Oral health literacy: At the intersection of K–12 education and public health. Journal of the California Dental Association 40(4):323–330.
  2. Fine JI, Isman RE, Grant CB. 2012. A comprehensive school-based/linked dental program: An essential piece of the California access to care puzzle. Journal of the California Dental Association 40(3):229–237.
  3. American Dental Hygienists Association, Council on Research. 2016. National dental hygiene research agenda. Journal of Dental Hygiene 90 (suppl. 1):43–50.
  4. Lam A. 2014. Elements in oral health programs. New York State Dental Journal 80(2):26–30.
  5. Gundersen D, Bhagavatula P, Pruszynski JE, Okunseri C. 2012. Dental students' perceptions of self-efficacy and cultural competence with school-based programs. Journal of Dental Education 76(9):1175–1182.
  6. DeMattei RR, Allen J, Goss B. 2012. A service-learning project to eliminate barriers to oral care for children with special health care needs. Journal of School Nursing 28(3):168–174.
  7. Stone JH. 2012. Sinking your teeth into tooth decay. Science and Children 49(5):41–45.
  8. Walker KK, Steinfort EL, Keyler MJ. 2015. Cues to action as motivators for children's brushing. Health Communications 30(9):911–921.

OHRC Publications

This section contains OHRC-produced materials.


Details

Barzel R, Holt K. 2012. Child and adolescent oral health issues. Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, 8 pp

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Georgetown University Box 571272
Washington, DC 20057-1272

Telephone: (202) 784-9771
E-mail: OHRCinfo@georgetown.edu
Website: https://www.mchoralhealth.org
Available from the website.

This fact sheet provides health professionals with information on issues related to child and adolescent oral health. Topics include dental caries, access to care, children and adolescents with special health care needs, dental sealants, fluorides, nutrition, injury and violence, and tobacco. [Funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau]


Details

Bertness J, Holt K, Barzel R, eds. 2016. Promoting oral health in schools: A resource guide (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, 38 pp

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Georgetown University Box 571272
Washington, DC 20057-1272

Telephone: (202) 784-9771
E-mail: OHRCinfo@georgetown.edu
Website: https://www.mchoralhealth.org
Available from the website.

This guide provides resources to help health professionals, program administrators, educators, parents, and others promote oral health and prevent oral disease in school-age children and adolescents. The guide is divided into two sections. The first section describes materials such as brochures, fact sheets, guidelines, curricula, and reports. The second section lists federal agencies, national professional associations, resource centers, and national coalitions that may serve as resources. [Funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau]


Details

Holt K, Barzel R. 2013. Oral health and learning: When children's oral health suffers, so does their ability to learn (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, 4 pp

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Georgetown University Box 571272
Washington, DC 20057-1272

Telephone: (202) 784-9771
E-mail: OHRCinfo@georgetown.edu
Website: https://www.mchoralhealth.org
Available from the website.

This fact sheet presents information on the effects of poor oral health on learning in school-age children. Topics include the impact of poor oral health on school performance and social relationships, nutrition and learning, school attendance and learning, and programs for improving oral health. [Funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau]


Details

Holt K, Barzel R. 2010. Pain and suffering shouldn't be an option: School-based and school-linked oral health services for children and adolescents. Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, 4 pp

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Georgetown University Box 571272
Washington, DC 20057-1272

Telephone: (202) 784-9771
E-mail: OHRCinfo@georgetown.edu
Website: https://www.mchoralhealth.org
Available from the website.

This fact sheet provides information about the importance of good oral health during childhood and adolescence. Topics include school readiness, disparities, oral trauma, nutrition, dental sealants, fluoride varnish, and school-based and school-linked oral health services. [Funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau]


Details

Lowe E, Barzel R, Holt K. 2016. Integrating sustainable oral health services into primary care in school-based health centers: A framework. Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, 1 v

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Georgetown University Box 571272
Washington, DC 20057-1272

Telephone: (202) 784-9771
E-mail: OHRCinfo@georgetown.edu
Website: https://www.mchoralhealth.org
Available from the website.

This framework offers ideas for school-based health centers (SBHCs) to consider when integrating sustainable comprehensive oral health services into primary care to improve the quality of oral health care of school-age children and adolescents. The framework presents a description of six levels of integration to help SBHCs evaluate their current level of integration and 10 key elements to more fully integrate sustainable comprehensive oral health services into primary care in SBHCs. [Funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau]

     


OHRC Library

This section contains recent materials, not including OHRC-produced materials.


Details

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health. 2012. Health education curriculum analysis tool (HECAT). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027

Telephone: (800) 232-4636
Secondary Telephone: (888) 232-6348
E-mail: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
Website: http://www.cdc.gov
Available from the website.

This resource provides guidance and appraisal tools for assessing a health education curriculum. Contents include an overview of school health education, curriculum, and curriculum selection and development; step-by-step guidance for organizing a health education curriculum review and conducting an analysis; tools for scoring the accuracy and acceptability of curriculum content, feasibility of implementation, and affordability of the curriculum materials; tools for scoring fundamental characteristics of a health education curriculum; and tools for scoring concepts and skills relevant to topics such as alcohol and other drugs, healthy eating, mental and emotional health, physical activity, safety, tobacco, and violence. Forms for summarizing appraisal scores for a single curriculum or comparing scores across curricula are included.


Details

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health. 2014. School health index: A self-assessment and planning guide—Elementary school. Atlanta, GA: Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1 v

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027

Telephone: (800) 232-4636
Secondary Telephone: (888) 232-6348
E-mail: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
Website: http://www.cdc.gov
Available from the website.

This guide provides step-by-step instructions for creating a school health improvement plan. The guide is designed to help communities identify the strengths and weaknesses of school policies and programs for promoting health and safety; develop an action plan for improving student health and safety; and involve teachers, parents, students, and other community members in improving school policies, programs, and services. Contents include instructions for site coordinators, eight self-assessment modules, and an action planning component. Topics include school health and safety policies and environment; health education; physical education and other physical activity programs; nutrition services; school health services; school counseling, psychological, and social services; health promotion for staff; and family and community involvement.


Details

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health. 2014. School health index: A self-assessment and planning guide—Middle/high school. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 v

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027

Telephone: (800) 232-4636
Secondary Telephone: (888) 232-6348
E-mail: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
Website: http://www.cdc.gov
Available from the website.

This guide provides step-by-step instructions for creating a school health improvement plan. The guide is designed to help communities identify the strengths and weaknesses of school policies and programs for promoting health and safety; develop an action plan for improving student health and safety; and involve teachers, parents, students, and other community members in improving school policies, programs, and services. Contents include instructions for site coordinators, eight self-assessment modules, and an action plan component. Topics include school health and safety policies and environment; health education; physical education and other physical activity programs; nutrition services; school health services; school counseling, psychological, and social services; health promotion for staff; and family and community involvement.


Details

National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health. 2015. Results from the School Health Policies and Practices Study 2014. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 165 pp

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027

Telephone: (800) 232-4636
Secondary Telephone: (888) 232-6348
E-mail: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
Website: http://www.cdc.gov
Available from the website.

This report provides school- and classroom-level data on each of the following 10 components of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model: health education, physical education and physical activity, nutrition environment and services, health services, counseling, psychological and social services, healthy and safe school environment, physical environment, employee wellness, family engagement, and community involvement. Information about oral health education, screening and referral, and professional development are included.


Details

National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health. 2013. Results from the School Health Policies and Practices Study 2012. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 147 pp

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027

Telephone: (800) 232-4636
Secondary Telephone: (888) 232-6348
E-mail: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
Website: http://www.cdc.gov
Available from the website.

This report provides state- and district-level data on each of the following eight components of the Coordinated School Health (CSH) model: health education, physical education, health services, mental health and social services, nutrition services, healthy and safe school environment, faculty and staff health promotion, and family and community involvement. Screenings, notifications, and referrals for oral health problems are included.

     

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