Application of Health Belief Model in Dentistry

Health and wellbeing are essential for a community or population as a whole. A healthy population is a valuable asset to every country because it gives people the opportunity to live better lives, fulfill their potential, create families, and contribute to the country’s wellbeing.

There might be an abundance of strategies for improving health, but none of them will be effective if health basics are not instilled in children during their school years. With this in mind, the first strategy and the cornerstone of health should lie in promoting health starting from the school years. According to the World Health Organization (2014), “children are the most important natural resource” (p.1). With this in mind, the Health Belief Model can be applied from the school years so that children may grow into adults who will be conscious about their oral health.

The peer-reviewed article “The Application of the Health Belief Model in Oral Health Education” was published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health. The article elucidates the results of the study in the implementation of the health belief model for oral education among 12-year-old school children. The basis for conducting a study was the prevalence of decayed teeth among 12-year-old children in secondary schools in Teheran (Solhi, Zadeh, Seraj, & Zadeh, 2010). The study took into account the Decayed, Missing and Filling Teeth Index (DMFTI) – an index for assessing oral health and average number of decayed and missing teeth (Solhi et al., 2010). The index in students was approximately 3.26, and the expected result of the study was to demonstrate that the index may be brought down to three or less than three. It was possible by incorporating health education and health promotion strategies with the use of the health belief model (HBM).

According to the HBM, in order for people to change a health-related behavior, at least three requirements need to be met. Firstly, a person needs to realize a perceived threat of a disease (Solhi et al., 2010). Secondly, health-seeking behaviors need to present tangible advantages, and lastly, all of the potential barriers to the implementation of the positive behaviors need to be taken into account. The study considered the DMFT index and its fluctuation effects based on the education with the use of HBM. It was expected that the oral health education would promote brushing and flossing among school children (Solhi et al., 2010).

The target population for the study consisted of 12-year-old female-students. The total number of students who participated in the project amounted to 291. They were later split into two groups of 147 and 144 pupils (Solhi et al., 2010). The first stage of the experiment commenced with a list of 54 questions which related to the HBM and health practices to which school-children adhered. The questionnaire was used to assess students’ perception of disease severity from weak, moderate to high levels. The study was performed during two academic years, the first data were collected, and a dentist performed an oral examination. Based on the data analysis, the gaps in students’ knowledge were identified, and the appropriate educational program was developed (Solhi et al., 2010).

Before the education program was introduced, some of the students used to neglect tooth brushing and flossing. After the start of the educational program, more than 90% of them reported brushing teeth daily; furthermore, many of them brushed their teeth two or three times daily (Solhi et al., 2010). The success of the program may be explained by children’s better susceptibility to new information and easier formation of positive habits. Aside from healthy oral behaviors, the number of dentist visits increased in the study groups. Some of the students made appointments with dentists for the purpose of tooth disease prevention. It is worth noting that before introducing the educational program along with the HBM approach, the students’ voluntary dentist appointments were close to 0%, and they made dentist appointments only because of a painful experience, and not for the sake of prevention. Solhi et al., (2010) found that the students who had participated in the educational program were more willing to make a dentist appointment even when they had no oral health complaints.

Solhi et al., (2010) compared the educational program undertaken in Teheran with similar research studies conducted in other countries, such as Australia, North America, and Canada. The studies conducted in various countries indicate a positive trend towards health-seeking behaviors undertaken by children. The control groups where the educational programs had not been introduced were compared with the study groups, and the results were contrasted to trace the dynamics. In the groups where the educational programs were introduced, the students were more willing to engage in health-seeking behaviors. Out of all the studies conducted in various countries, Canada yielded the most positive results, with 42% of school students in Ontario brushing teeth twice a day (Solhi et el., 2010). More importantly, 84% of primary school students in Ontario say they visit a dentist at least once a year. In comparison with the study conducted in Teheran, Canadian school students appear to be more conscious towards their oral health.

The results of the study conducted in Teheran indicate the potential for the HBM implementation for the prevention of oral diseases. The educational program has revealed that increasing students’ perception of oral diseases may be instrumental in fostering and enhancing their oral health prevention strategies. The DMFT index decreased in the study groups owing to the educational program and students’ increased knowledge. The positive results of the study may provide further impetus for the use of the HBM in dentistry.

References

Solhi, M., Zadeh, D. S., Seraj, B., & Zadeh, S.F. (2010). Iranian Journal of Public Health., 39(4),114–119. Web.

World Health Organization. (2014). Web.

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