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Children's Oral Health

Pierce County Library System, WA
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Innovation Summary

Partnering with Washington Dental Service Foundation, this project created a toolkit of best practice methods and tools to help young children and families benefit through stronger oral health. Tools are tested through integration into various activities and services of member organizations of First 5 FUNdamentals, Pierce County’s Early Learning Coalition.

Problem Statement

Children's Oral Health at PCLSToday families with young children understand the importance of having a home where each child receives regular medical attention, including check-ups, inoculations, and developmentally appropriate screening. Many programs exist to help families get the medical support they require. For low-income children, however, this often does not include oversight of their oral health. According to the American Journal of Public Health “the rate of untreated dental disease among low-income children aged two to five years is almost five times higher than that of high-income families” yet dental disease is preventable and not merely an issue of cosmetics. More than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental related illness (Surgeon General’s report) and the pain and suffering due to untreated dental disease can lead to problems with eating, speaking, and attending to learning. Early learning environments provide a unique opportunity to promote prevention, support children’s oral health and overall health in fun, engaging manners. Getting information about good oral health to at-risk children between 0 and 5 years is a priority. Libraries, as members of early learning coalitions, are uniquely positioned in every community to spread the message of how to support positive oral health in all children through integration of oral health messages in storytimes, special activities and events, and by making sure appropriate materials are available for families and child cares to access.


Eleven partneChildren's Oral Health at PCLSrs are working together to reach three outcomes. Evaluators have documented and are evaluating the work. Outcomes include: 1. Increase oral health and outreach education in Pierce County. 2. Increase the parent/caregiver and early learning system partner’s knowledge of oral health, dental home, service access to and payment assistance 3. Increase the number of young children (0 – 5 years) within the targeted population that are referred to the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry program (ABCD). The Library’s role has been to increase access to quality information about good oral health for young children using existing tools and creating new tools where appropriate. An initial community health assessment of Pierce County was conducted by the Health Department to help partners identify appropriate materials and develop the final tool kit. By meeting all outcomes, this project directly impacts children connecting them with the ABCD program, educates service providers as well as parents and caregivers about what constitutes good oral health and how to achieve it, and creates a system that will support the continuing dissemination of information for families in the future. It provides a road map for other communities to easily replicate. The Library used the information to inform its decisions regarding types of books and other materials to purchase, booklists to create and in what format, and what materials and activities should be included in the storytime kits and kits supplied to Child Care Aware’s for distribution to licensed child cares. Other partners used the assessment to set up trainings for child care providers, to integrate materials into existing preschool curriculum and to begin to train dental hygienists in adolescent dentistry best practices.


One year of results has been reported. Overall there has been an increase in ABCD referrals of 14.4%. The Library has completed its assigned activities. Developmentally and topic appropriate booklists, one for each age level (0 – 3, 3 – 5 years), were created. Titles were integrated into storytimes during two identified dental health months, February and October. Bookmarks were developed, that included titles and oral health tips. These targeted parents and caregivers and were made available through the Library and partner locations. An outdated, inaccurate song and rhyme booklet about oral health, for use by parents and caregivers, was rewritten. Two oral health kits were created, one for storytime use by librarians, and one for check out either through the Library’s “Ready for Books” book delivery program or through Child Care Aware’ s provider resource library All created items are posted on the Library website and available for download. Parents and caregivers were receptive to the information and materials. Librarians are integrating oral health messages into future storytimes regularly. The greatest challenge was working out the materials approval process. Everything developed or chosen to be included needed to be reviewed by the Dental Foundation for accuracy. Once established the process ran smoothly. During the first year of the project—2012—PCLS and its partners distributed more than 1,400 oral health bags. In the first dental month storytimes reached 128 children and 81 adults. During the second year, eighteen branches each offered two oral health storytimes. Second year data will be complete in September 2013 and will be posted on PCLS’s website.