Understanding parents' oral health behaviors for their young children

Qual Health Res. 2009 Jan;19(1):116-27. doi: 10.1177/1049732308327243. Epub 2008 Nov 7.


Young children with extensive dental decay often require a general anesthetic (GA) to enable dental treatment. The purpose of this study was to develop a grounded theory to help our understanding of the processes that influence parental adoption of dentally healthy behaviors following the experience of their child's "dental general anesthetic." Twenty six interviews were conducted. Data were analyzed and a conceptual model was generated. Overall, the dental GA experience had an immediate, but short-lived, impact on parental behavior change. Parents had difficulty over time maintaining these behaviors. Social influences, family context, and parenting strategies were the key categories that influenced parental behavior change; however, parenting strategies occupied the central position in the model. Cultural beliefs, actions of dental professionals, and media/advertising were some of the identified barriers to behavior change. Those parents who were more confident in their ability to successfully carry out dentally healthy practices were more likely to maintain them over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, Dental*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Care for Children / methods*
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Dental Caries / therapy
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oral Health*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research