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Staff, parents, and pregnant women differ in opinion regarding oral health of early head start children.

The United States Health Resources and Services Administration conducted a group among Early Head Start staff, parents, and pregnant women attitudes toward oral health. Nine focus groups were conducted with audiotapes of the sessions transcribed into ATLAS.ti 5.0 for coding and analysis.

Differences in opinions varied among the participants. When it came to the importance of oral health, staff members reported that EHS parents do not place oral health as a high priority. However, many parents understood the importance of caring for their children's teeth and developing good oral habits early. Other parents indicated that they didn't recognize the importance of oral health. One parent stated, "baby teeth fall out anyway and don't have nerve endings, so why care for them?" Pregnant women did not understand the importance of dental care during pregnancy. A number of myths were expressed about the effects of pregnancy on teeth such as "Pregnancy sucking the calcium out of your teeth." The author stated, "Most first-time expectant mothers lacked an understanding of the importance of primary teeth and how they should care for the oral health of their child after birth."

Communication was also a factor between parents and staff. Authors stated, "Many staff members struggled in achieving effective communication with parents and felt unable to persuade them that oral health is important and should be a priority at home." However, parents felt at time misunderstood by EHS staff even perceiving criticism and unfair judgment. Parents expressed difficulties in managing their demanding lives. They also stated that staff members were insensitive to their day to day activities.

Participants also expressed confusion regarding the application of Head Start oral health performance standard compared to EHS. "The need for culturally sensitive, hands-on oral health education was highlighted," authors said.

The writers concluded that "tailored, theory-based interventions are needed to improve communication between EHS staff and families."

Having clear policies on the application of Head Start oral health performance standards to EHS are necessary. The authors add that educational activities should address the needs and suggestions of the participants.

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Title Annotation:Upfront
Publication:Journal of Dental Hygiene
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:343
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