Summer 2014 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Oral Health Habits Learned in PA Child Care Programs

Oral Health Habits Learned in PA Child Care Programs

ECELS and PA AAP’s Healthy Teeth, Healthy Children conducted an online survey for early care and education programs as part of the February 2014 Dental Health Month. The purpose of the survey was to learn how child care programs were teaching and practicing oral health.

Over 300 early care and education practitioners responded to the survey. Most respondents were from center based programs. A smaller number were family child care practitioners and Head Start program teachers. Ninety- percent of the respondents were from programs participating in Keystone STARS.

Here are some highlights of how programs are promoting oral health:

  • 87% reported including healthy food choices for meals and snacks.
  • 85% reported showing and talking about healthy food choices.
  • 81% reported reducing sugary snacks such as gummy bears, granola bars and cookies.
  • 75% reported reducing juice intake for children.
  • 47% reported they provide oral health education for children.

Nearly 40% of the early care and education practitioners said they role model oral health habits for children in their program.
Over 30% reported they help children brush their teeth after meals and snack.

Children learn how to take care of their teeth and gums when teachers model and include oral health practices as one of the daily routines. Children learn best about oral health routines from what their teachers do and have them do.

From the survey respondents, ECELS selected three programs to have a free onsite Cavity Kids professional development session. These programs were: Stepping Stones Children’s Center in Wexford, PA; Harrisburg Area YMCA; and A Rose Bush Child Care in Glen Mills, PA. The first twenty-five respondents to the survey received the book, “Happy, Healthy Teeth! A Guide to Children’s Dental Health.” All of the respondents received an online list of oral health resources.

The survey respondents noted some barriers to promoting oral health in their programs. These included: need for staff education, need for more support to implement activities, and the expense of conducting oral health activities.

ECELS can help reduce these barriers. Use the ECELS Oral Health Self-Learning Module (SLM) to educate staff members about oral health. It includes tools to implement oral health activities. Go to the ECELS website: www.ecels-healthychildcarepa.org. Select “Professional Development,” then “Self-Learning Modules,” and then “Oral Health.”

Also, ECELS offers technical assistance to help assess, improve and minimize the cost of oral health activities. Contact ECELS at 800/243-2357 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Contributed by Libby Ungvary, MEd, ECELS Director with input from Bonnie Magliochetti, RDH, RN, Oral Health Program Director and Lauren Orsini, MPH, Oral Health Program Coordinator