Using a theory-based animation to help improve oral health in families
The World Health Organisation has identified tooth decay as the most common chronic disease in children globally. The UK Children’s Dental Health Survey reported that 31% of 5-year-olds and 46% of 8-year-olds had obvious decay experience in their primary teeth. Decay is preventable through regular tooth brushing and avoiding free sugars, yet interventions that have focused on increasing knowledge to address poor oral health have not been effective. This project explored parent’s and children’s experiences of oral health to inform the development of an intervention to improve oral health.
The first phase of this project investigated parents’ and children’s beliefs, knowledge and attitudes towards oral health through qualitative interviews. Parents generally reported a positive attitude towards oral health and the importance of encouraging their children to have good oral health. Even though parents expressed having intentions to maintain their child’s oral health, they also described difficulties in carrying out these intentions.
Implementation intentions have been identified as a useful tool to bridge the gap between intention and behaviour, and involve encouraging people to form ‘if-then’ plans to change people’s habits. The second phase of this project therefore looked to teach parents and children how to use implementation intentions through a short animation on YouTube.
What was found
A feasibility study was conducted in which all the families received standard information about how to improve oral health, but some families also received the animation to encourage them to use implementation intentions. After six months it was found that families were able to use implementation intentions and that there were improvements in children’s tooth brushing and oral health. More information about the feasibility study can be found in the video below.
Implications of the research
The use of implementation intentions has shown to be an acceptable way to encourage tooth brushing in families, which will lead to improvements in oral health and reduce tooth decay. The different phases of the project and use of behavioural science helped to identify the need for implementation intentions and how these can be used to complement parent’s positive attitudes towards oral health and the knowledge provided by dentists. The next stage will be to conduct this intervention on a larger scale to further test the effectiveness of in different populations.
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