Children's oral health-related behaviors: individual stability and stage transitions

Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2010 Oct;38(5):445-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0528.2010.00549.x.


In 2001-2005 in Pori, Finland, a program of oral health promotion (OHP) was targeted to schoolchildren and people involved in their life to provide social support for participants of the experimental group of a randomized clinical trial (RCT) on controlling caries.

Objectives: Our aim was to describe the individual stability and stage transitions for behaviors among children exposed to OHP in Pori and to ascertain whether these phenomena differed in the group that was also exposed to the experimental regimen of the RCT.

Methods: The study population consisted of all 5th and 6th graders who started the 2001-2002 school year in Pori (n = 1691); 1362 of them were monitored throughout the 3.4-year study. Of these children, 1138 were exposed to OHP and 224 to OHP and the experimental regimen of the RCT. Data on toothbrushing and use of xylitol products, candies, and soft- and sports drinks were gathered with questionnaires. Behavior variables were dichotomized into good and poor. The stability of behaviors and stage transitions was evaluated.

Results: Over half of the children had stable behaviors throughout the study. For those children whose behaviors changed, the behavior was more likely to improve than to worsen. For most behaviors, good behavior at baseline was associated with the ability to maintain the achieved good behavior and to recover from lapses to poor behaviors.

Conclusion: In childhood, behaviors, especially good ones, are rather stable. If healthy behaviors are learned young, lapses into poor behaviors, for instance during the teens, are likely be temporary rather than permanent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Beverages / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child Development
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oral Health*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Toothbrushing / psychology
  • Toothbrushing / statistics & numerical data