Pitt Innovation Challenge 2021
Healthy Teeth Family
- Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood.
- The Healthy Teeth Family box sent directly to the home, can help establish healthy habits to promote oral health in engaging easy-to-implement steps.
- Our box is a community-generated solution, fun, interactive way to establish daily behaviors to keep children’s teeth healthy.
Catch up with the Healthy Teeth Family team!
Tooth decay is a major public health problem for young children. Approximately 25% of American children ages 2-5 have untreated tooth decay – 5 times more common than asthma. If untreated, this “silent epidemic” could cause pain, infection, and affect essential functions, such as eating, speaking, and sleeping.
The burden of tooth decay is higher among non-white children from low-income families, who are more likely to be left untreated compared to children from white families with moderate- or high-incomes.
The effects of tooth decay in young children can be significant to both the child and the family, worsening quickly and requiring extensive hospital treatment under general anesthesia.
Many parents are not aware that early positive dental care habits can also reduce the burdens of adult obesity and diabetes. This information on early diet and oral hygiene habits, when provided, is often unengaging and not made easy or fun to carry out.
The Healthy Teeth Family box is an oral health promotion box to prevent child tooth decay. This idea arose after an extensive 5-year study with 126 Pittsburgh mothers, who described an oral health promotion box as a welcome method to provide child oral health education and resources to families.
This method works as a preventative treatment, to avoid severe tooth decay in children who would then require general anesthesia during treatment.
A video screen incorporated into the lid of the Healthy Teeth Family box plays engaging and educational programming for both the children and their families, providing guidance on oral hygiene activities and on ways in which changing one’s diet can positively affect oral health. Examples of such guidance include daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste and not putting milk in a baby’s bottle to put them to sleep each night.
The videos will highlight a local family’s relevant personal experiences, such as which local stores sell healthy foods that do not cause tooth decay. The Healthy Teeth Family Box will also include child dental supplies, a children’s book on oral health, and a fun, interactive oral health activity for the caregiver to do with the child.
Path to Impact Plan
Early childhood is a critical window during which families are receptive to new information and forming new habits, leading to a lifetime of health benefits.
In partnership with Pitt Community Engagement Center in Homewood, Homewood Children’s Village, and Early Head Start, Healthy Teeth Family box is designed for children under 3 years-old and their families to decrease the burden of tooth decay in multiple historically disenfranchised communities in Pittsburgh who are not commonly the primary recipients for tailored health messages.
By decreasing the occurrence of tooth decay and improving children’s overall health, the Healthy Teeth Family box will improve health, wellness, and quality-of-life for children and families in Pittsburgh.
Our product has the potential to be implemented in other vulnerable communities. For instance, if the Healthy Teeth Family box is shown to be effective in this study, insurance companies and non-profits could be interested in helping to sponsor the costs of delivering a one-time box and recurring supplies for their patients to help decrease future medical costs.
- Jacqueline M. Burgette, DMD, PhD (Pitt School of Dental Medicine) is a board-certified pediatric dentist trained in delivering and teaching infant oral health care, leading the HTHM box development and clinical trial.
- Peggy J. Liu, PhD (Pitt Katz Graduate School of Business) is the Ben L. Fryrear Chair in Marketing and an associate professor of business administration with research and teaching expertise in consumer behavior, with a focus on work that increases the appeal of health activities in social contexts.