Teaching with Teeth: Oral Health Promotion for Students in Chicago Public Schools
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Teaching with Teeth: Oral Health Promotion for Students in Chicago Public Schools Chicago Community Oral Health Forum (CCOHF). 55. Heidi Johnson and Kim Bartolomucci. Introduction. Methods: Curriculum Development and Scheduling. Methods: Implementation. Results.

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Teaching with Teeth: Oral Health Promotion for Students in Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Community Oral Health Forum (CCOHF)


Heidi Johnson and Kim Bartolomucci


Methods: Curriculum Development and Scheduling

Methods: Implementation


Conclusions and Future Directions

  • Funding secured and full-time Oral Health Educator hired.

  • 70 page curriculum developed, including five lesson plans for five different age groups(See Objectives) and approved by Chicago Public Schools Health and Wellness Committee.

  • Each lesson plan includes the following.

    • Teaching Objectives

    • Behavioral Objectives

    • Lesson Plan Diagram

    • Lesson Plan Outline

    • Sample Script

  • Oral Health Educator, 13 Kennedy-King College dental hygiene student volunteers, and one additional pre-dental graduate student volunteer have delivered presentations to over 6,255 students.

  • It is possible to develop a 20 minute comprehensive and engaging oral health lesson plan tailored for specific age groups.

  • Classroom interventions can serve to increase children’s awareness of the importance of oral health as well as increase children’s oral health knowledge.

    • At the end of presentations, presenters ask students what they learned; answers include:

      • The role of fluoride in preventing cavities.

      • The possibility of oral cancer.

      • The consequences of gum disease.

    • Program currently reaches a small fraction of the number of students in Chicago Public Schools, which is currently 404,151.

    • Continue to expand program (two additional part-time oral health educators hired), recruit student volunteers, including dental students, pre-dental students, and dental hygiene students.

    • Numbers of students reached through program expected to increase exponentially.

  • Presenters grab students’ attention by starting out with a “pop quiz” that teaches them fun, little-known facts about oral health.

  • Presenters demonstrate how to use a toothbrush and floss properly with a 3X life-size model set of teeth and an extra large toothbrush.

  • For Pre-Kindergarten through around Grade 3 students, Presenters may use toy fruits, vegetables, and other various foods to teach about healthy eating.

  • Teachers and classroom aides give valuable feedback on presenters and presentations by answering the following questions on evaluation forms.

    • Was the presentation informative?

    • Was it relevant and age-appropriate?

    • Was the presenter knowledgeable and well-prepared?

    • Was the message communicated clearly and effectively?

    • Was this a good use of classroom time?

    • Any other comments?

  • Presenters pass out goodie bags with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and brochures to take home with them, reinforcing what was learned and encouraging healthy habits.

  • The brochure (pictured to the left) contains information that was taught during the lesson and a note to the parent or caretaker letting him or her know there was a presentation on oral health in the child’s classroom.

  • Chicago Public Schools is the 3rd largest school district in the U.S.

  • 87 percent of students in Chicago Public Schools are from low-income homes, and children from low-income homes are more at-risk for dental disease.

  • CCOHF works to improve the oral health of Chicago area residents through education, communications, collaboration, assessment, and policy and program development.

  • Research all major professional dental organization web sites, including the American Dental Association web sites for professionals and consumers.

  • Do other online research, including reviewing pertinent scientific articles on PubMed.

  • Submit to three

  • dentists and one

  • dental hygienist

  • for review, and to

  • primary funder.

  • Present to

  • Chicago Public

  • Schools Health and

  • Wellness Materials

  • Review Committee.

  • Obtain list of all CPS

  • Schools.

  • Call school Principals

  • and Assistant

  • Principals to make

  • Initial contact.

  • Follow up by visiting

  • schools to request

  • meetings with

  • Principals or

  • Assistant Principals

  • in order to schedule

  • visits.


  • Develop an oral health education curriculum for students in Chicago Public Schools.

  • Tailor the comprehensive lesson to meet the learning needs of five different age groups:

    • Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten

    • 1st and 2nd Grade

    • 3rd through 5th Grade

    • 6th through 8th Grade

    • High School

  • Include the following topics:

    • Oral hygiene

    • Dental visits

    • Healthy eating

    • Caries etiology and gum disease

    • Fluoride

    • Benefits of chewing sugar-free gum

    • Trauma prevention (bottles and Sippy cups, mouthguards, oral piercings)

    • Oral cancer from tobacco use and excessive alcohol use (Grades 6 through High School)

    • Oral cancer from Human papillomavirus (HPV) (High School only; with approval from Chicago Public Schools HIV, Health and Wellness Materials Review Committee)


  • Special thanks to the Wrigley Company Foundation for funding the CCOHF Oral Health Education Program.

  • Special thanks to Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Department of Public Health for partnering with CCOHF on this program.