Improving Oral Health at Covenant House

Chizick, Chelsea, and Amber Nogiec

An oral health education program was conducted to improve plaque removal technique, nutritional knowledge, and overall understanding of the importance of oral health among 18-22 year old homeless adults who resided at Covenant House Center in Detroit, MI. The mean pre-test plaque index (PI) scores exhibited by the adults were 29%, and the mean pre-test nutrition worksheet scores were 65 %. A pre-test survey revealed the adults lacked knowledge in various components of oral health care including the correct toothbrushing and flossing technique, the etiology of periodontal disease, the use and benefits of fluoride, and the importance of eating healthy foods to contribute to the overall health of teeth. Healthy People 2010 states that “Many persons in the United States do not receive essential dental services. Through increased access to appropriate and timely care, individuals can enjoy improved oral health.” An oral health education program including educational handouts and interactive discussion was implemented. Adult subjects were distributed information regarding correct oral hygiene technique, etiology of periodontal disease, benefits of fluoride, and the importance of choosing healthy snacks. Important concepts of each topic were emphasized, and concerns were addressed. To evaluate the effectiveness of the education provided, pre and post-test PI scores were compared using the Mann-Whitney μ test. Post-test nutrition worksheets and surveys were also obtained and compared to baseline. A significant difference in oral hygiene was not found due to poor attendance and disinterest amongst the adults at the second educational session. Although as a group the results were not statistically significant, two out of the three adults showed great improvement in their oral hygiene, and the mean post-test nutrition worksheet scores were 100%, indicating a 35% improvement in understanding regarding choosing healthy foods to eat. Knowledge in other aspects of oral health also increased as the adults were able to participate in discussion and answer questions. The presenters concluded that the oral health education program for Covenant House Center was successful as it increased awareness about the importance of oral health and correct oral hygiene techniques. Development of similar programs throughout the state could prove to be an effective tool in increasing oral health, and preventing oral disease among the adult population. However, motivational aspects of adult learning need to be taken into consideration when planning such programs in the future, so participation and interest in such topics are increased.