Building student involvement, fostering civic engagement and enhancing community service to advance public health. 

Oral health is integral to overall health, and public impact research has shown far too many people in Hawaiʻi are not able to access necessary oral health care. A report from the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health released in 2022 found that Hawaiʻi’s low-income preschool students have the highest prevalence of dental decay in the nation.The consequences of poor oral health affect the entire body, and many oral health conditions are preventable and can reduce expensive emergency room visits.

A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa associate professor from the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON) has developed an oral health toolkit to teach nurses, doctors and healthcare students how to effectively integrate oral health into their practice. This project is a collaboration between the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (HIDOH) Family Health Services Division and NAWSON.

“The integration of oral health into pediatric primary care practice is one substantial and economical way to reduce the bad oral health outcomes and improve overall health and quality of life for our island residents,” said Deborah Mattheus, project lead and NAWSON’s Professor in School Health. “As a practicing APRN (nurse practitioner), I see kids in the clinic all the time who have poor oral hygiene. We have a great opportunity to proactively take care of their teeth as part of their well-child visit. This will set up these kids for good dental hygiene as they get older.” 

The toolkit includes: 1) a video and handout on steps to applying fluoride varnish; 2) visual examples of early childhood caries (cavities); 3) template for medical charting; and 4) fluoride varnish factsheet for families.

Local actors were used in the video with content customized for a Hawaiʻi audience. Feedback on the content was solicited from HIDOH, community partners, Hawaiʻi Oral Health Coalition members, Harvard University’s Center for Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health leadership, UH faculty, dentist, doctors and nurses. Watch the video here.

To read the full article click here.

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