Dental caries is one of the prevalent problems among school-age children and has a direct impact on their oral health. As a part of the overall physical health, school-age children’s oral health relates to their learning, quality of life, as well as physical and mental growth. Therefore, caries prevention has been an issue of great concern to all developed countries around the world. In Taiwan, the decayed, missing, and filled teeth (DMFT) index in 2012 for children at 12 years old was 2.5, which surpassed the figures of our neighboring countries as well as other Asian and Western countries. More importantly, it fell short of the goal set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010 specifying a DMFT index of 2 or below.
School-age children spend half of their daily activity time in school, and hence their subjection to teachers’ and peers’ influence is no less than parents’. Moreover, with children highly concentrated in schools, making it convenient and time-saving to carry out healthcare work and measures, schools constitute an ideal place for health education and health promotion. It is particularly true for oral healthcare and caries prevention among school-age children. Favorable results can be expected given appropriate oral healthcare strategies and plans.
However, it is noteworthy that oral health inequality exists among Taiwanese children. Offspring of immigrant women are usually lack of oral health knowledge and unable to use the oral healthcare service system due to the language and cultural barrier of their mothers and generally low socio-economic status of their fathers. Also, school children in remote areas suffer from oral health problems due to shortage of dental care resources and the prevalence of children reared by grandparents, where the senior caregivers do not have adequate oral health knowledge to provide proper oral care for children. Consequently, school oral healthcare support is of great importance for disadvantaged children.
The Ministry of Education has devoted considerable effort to promote oral health among school-age children under the School-age Children Oral Healthcare Scheme since 2007. The major tasks include ensuring sufficient teeth cleaning resources in kindergartens and elementary schools and improving oral health knowledge among kindergarten and elementary school teachers and students.