Kauai News

UH Oral Health Toolkit Aids Keiki in Hawaiʻi And Beyond

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A health care provider and a parent with her child discuss oral health during a well-child visit. (Photos courtesy of University of Hawaiʻi)

A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa associate professor from the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing has developed an oral health toolkit to teach nurses, doctors and health care students how to effectively integrate oral health into their practice.

Deborah Mattheus

The project, Oral Health into Primary Care Practice: Oral Health Essential Services in a Well-Child Visit, is a collaboration between the state Department of Health Family Health Services Division and the UH-Mānoa nursing school.

“The integration of oral health into pediatric primary care practice is one substantial and economical way to reduce the bad oral health outcomes and improve overall health and quality of life for our island residents,” Deborah Mattheus, project lead and Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing’s professor in school health, said in a press release. “As a practicing (nurse practitioner), I see kids in the clinic all the time who have poor oral hygiene. We have a great opportunity to proactively take care of their teeth as part of their well-child visit. This will set up these kids for good dental hygiene as they get older.”


The project consisted of the creation of a training video and promotional toolkit, and dissemination of content to a national audience. The toolkit includes:

  • A video and handout on steps to applying fluoride varnish.
  • Visual examples of early childhood cavities.
  • A template for medical charting.
  • A fluoride varnish factsheet for families.

Mattheus has shared the toolkit with other Hawaiʻi nursing/medicine programs, with requests to schedule workshops starting this fall. She is working with these programs to integrate oral health into their curriculum.

Oral health is integral to overall health, and public impact research has shown far too many people in the islands are not able to access necessary oral health care. A 2022 report from the DOH found that preschool students from low-income families have the highest prevalence of dental decay in the nation.


“The consequences of poor oral health affect the entire body, and many oral health conditions are preventable and can reduce expensive emergency room visits,” the UH press release said.

Mattheus, who is also the Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy and Ready to Learn senior practice director and dental sealant program director, said young children are seen by primary care providers more often than dentists, with an average of 12 recommended pediatric well-child visits by the time they are 3 years old and annually from 3-21 years old.

“Every primary care visit is an opportunity to assess oral health status, provide oral health education, connect families to a dental home and, when appropriate, apply fluoride varnish,” she said in the press release.


The video and toolkit were distributed to the American Academy of Pediatrics Hawaiʻi Chapter, Hawaiʻi Primary Care Association, National Association of Pediatric Nurses and Practitioners Hawaiʻi Chapter, Hawaiʻi American Nurses Association, Hawaiʻi Oral Health Coalition and Hawaiʻi Dental Service.

The toolkit also reached the mainland and was distributed by the Academy of Pediatrics Section on Oral Health, Harvard University’s Center for Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health, Oral Health Progress and Equity Network and Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice.

Mattheus also has been invited to present the keynote address at the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center Oral Health Learning Cafe Webinar in November.

For more information about the project or to request the video and toolkit, contact Mattheus at [email protected].

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