A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Raising Awareness of Dental Health

by Hollis Russinof, Manager at American Academy of Pediatrics in Chicago, Illinois; HRussinof@aap.org. on September 8, 2017

As the go-to resource in communities across the nation, librarians help parents and caregivers navigate the universe of information on the shelves and online. Libraries are also active participants in community health promotion and disease prevention.[1]

As readers of this blog, you already knew that. But did you know that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood? Nearly thirty-seven percent (36.7%) of 2 to 8 year olds have decay in their baby teeth, according to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.[2] Among children in kindergarten, first, and second grade—6 to 8 year olds—the rates are even higher. More than half (55.7%) of kids in that age group suffer from dental disease.

As well you can imagine, the associated pain impacts a child’s ability to eat, sleep, and learn, affecting both school attendance and performance.[3,4] Poor oral health is often the result of the same social and economic disparities that put children at risk for other childhood diseases, such as obesity,[5] both of which are now being seen at epidemic levels among US children. The use of tobacco products by teens adversely affects oral health too.[6] That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics promotes programs to improve children’s oral health as part of overall child health and wellness.

Librarians are in a unique position to raise awareness about the importance of children’s oral health. To assist the Public Library Association’s efforts to build healthy communities, we are pleased to present an Oral Health Resource List for Public Librarians. This resource includes suggested books for children and families as well as child-friendly graphics for library, early education, and clinical settings. Links to information in English and Spanish on fluoride and community water fluoridation are also included, along with links to tips for parents on brushing and bedtime routines.

In order to be healthy, children need healthy teeth. Thankfully, tooth decay is preventable. We appreciate your partnership in sharing these resources with library patrons. For more information, please feel free to contact us at fluoride@aap.org.


1. Morgan AU, Dupuis R, D’Alonzo B, et al. Beyond Books: Public libraries as partners for population health. Health Affairs. 2016;35(11):2030-2036

2. Dye BA, Thornton-Evans G, Li X, Iafolla TJ. Dental caries and sealant prevalence in children and adolescents in the United States, 2011–2012. NCHS Data Brief. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2015;191

3. Jackson SL, Vann WF, Kotch JB, Pahel BT, Lee JY. Impact of poor oral health on children’s school attendance and performance. Am J Public Health. 2011;101(10):1900-1906

4. Seirawan H, Faust S, Mulligan R. The impact of oral health on the academic performance of disadvantaged children. Am J Public Health. 2012;102(9):1729-1734

5. Spiegel KA, Palmer CA. Childhood dental caries and childhood obesity. Different problems with overlapping causes. Am J Dent. 2012;25:59-64

6. Tobacco Use and the Health of Young People. Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/tobacco/pdf/tobacco_factsheet.pdf. June 2008. Accessed August 28, 2017.