To evaluate the effectiveness of two methods of dental health education (DHE) for improving toothbrushing competency among grade one students at high risk for dental diseases.
Fifty elementary schools in the former city of North York, Ontario, Canada, were assigned to one of two groups. In one group, students received a classroom-based DHE lesson that was reinforced by two small group sessions (n = 243). In the other group, students received only a single classroom-based DHE lesson (n = 206). Trained examiners assessed 11 toothbrushing skills at pre- and postintervention.
At the preintervention test, few significant differences were found between the groups and many students did not display competency in fundamental oral health skills, such as placing a toothbrush at the gum line. Following DHE interventions, students in both groups demonstrated improvements in most skills. A significantly higher proportion of students who received both classroom and small group sessions displayed gains in competency in three skills, compared to students receiving only a classroom lesson. These skills were brushing anterior lingual surfaces, brushing posterior lingual surfaces, and brushing all areas in a routine fashion. Students receiving only a classroom session did not display greater improvements in any skill areas compared to "classroom plus small group" students. Some students in both groups still lacked fundamental skills at the end of the DHE program.
While one must exercise caution in interpreting the results due to several methodologic limitations, findings suggest that for high-risk grade one students, a classroom-based lesson combined with small group sessions is a more effective method of improving toothbrushing skills compared to a single classroom-based lesson.