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Keywords:

  • child care;
  • government regulation;
  • performance standards;
  • oral health

Abstract

Objective: Almost two out of every three US children younger than five receive child care from someone other than their parents. Health promotion in early education and child care (EECC) programs can improve the general health of children and families, but little is known about the role of these programs in oral health. We identified US EECC program guidelines and assessed their oral health recommendations for infants and toddlers.

Methods: State licensing regulations were obtained from the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care's online database. Professional standards were identified through a search of PubMed, early childhood organizations' websites, and early childhood literature. All EECC guidelines were reviewed for key terms related to oral health promotion in children and summarized by domains.

Results: Thirty-six states include oral health in their licensing regulations, but recommendations are limited and most often address the storage of toothbrushes. Eleven sets of standards were identified, four of which make recommendations about oral health. Standards from the American Academy of Pediatrics/American Public Health Association (AAP/APHA) and the Office of Head Start (OHS) provide the most comprehensive oral health recommendations regarding screening and referral, classroom activities, and education.

Conclusions: Detailed guidelines for oral health practices exist but they exhibit large variation in number and content. States can use the comprehensive standards from the AAP/APHA and OHS to inform and strengthen the oral health content of their licensing regulations. Research is needed to determine compliance with regulations and standards, and their effect on oral health.