Oral health

Oral health promotion through schools

Oral health promotion: an essential element of a health-promoting school

WHO information series on school health - Document eleven
Stella Kwan and Poul Erik Petersen
WHO Global Oral Health Programme
World Health Organization
Reference number: WHO/NMH/NPH/ORH/School/03.3


This document, part of the World Health Organization (WHO) Information Series on School Health, is intended to help people use health promotion strategies to improve oral health. Through oral health, the overall health, well being, education and development of children, families and communities are enhanced. Based on the recommendations of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (Annex 1), it will help individuals and groups move towards a new approach in public health, one that creates on-going conditions conducive to health and well being, including oral health.

While the concepts and strategies in this document apply to all countries, some of the examples may be more relevant to some countries or some areas than others. It is important that local application of these strategies are responsive to local needs, taking into account the cultural variations and socio-economic circumstances.

Why did WHO prepare this document?

The WHO has prepared this document to help people take control over and improve their health, through promoting the conditions that allow all its members to attain health.

It provides information that will assist individuals and groups to:

  • understand the nature of a Health-Promoting School;
  • make a strong case for incorporating oral health promotion in schools as an integral part of school activities or curriculum;
  • design, plan, implement and evaluate oral health promotion interventions as part of developing a Health-Promoting School.

Who should read this document?

This document has been prepared particularly to help those who are engaged in, and committed to, health promotion:

  • Government policy-makers and decision-makers, programme planners and coordinators at local, district (provincial), regional and national levels;
  • Members of non-governmental agencies and institutions responsible for planning and implementing the interventions described in this document, including programme staff and consultants of international health, education and development agencies who are interested in working with schools to promote health;
  • Decision-makers / administrators in health and education sectors;
  • Service providers of oral and medical health care, including the primary health care team, particularly dentists, dental auxiliaries and oral health educators; school nurses and community health workers;
  • Community leaders, local residents, health care providers, social workers and members of organised groups who are interested in improving health, education and well being in schools and the community;
  • Members of the school community, including teachers and their representative organisations, students, staff, volunteers, governors, parent groups, coaches, caretakers and school-based health workers.

How will this document help people promote health?

This document is based on scientific information and research, but it is more than a technical document. It is designed to help address a broad range of factors that impact on oral health and help schools become Health-Promoting Schools.

It will help individuals and groups to:

  • Create Healthy Public Policy. This document provides information that can be used to argue for increased local, district and national support and resources for oral health promotion through schools. It also forms a basis for justifying policies and decisions to increase such support.
  • Develop Supportive Environments. This document suggests physical, psychological and social enhancements to schools and community environment to promote oral health and well being. It also outlines how students, parents, teachers, community leaders and others can help support such enhancements.
  • Strengthen Community Actions. This document identifies actions that may be taken by schools and the community to promote oral health. It details ways in which schools can collaborate with the community to implement such actions and to strengthen school programmes. It provides argument and evidence that can be used for lobbying.
  • Develop Personal Skills. This document identifies skills that children and young people need to develop and maintain to adopt healthy lifestyles and behaviour in order to reduce the risks of oral diseases. It also emphasises skills that others can develop to create conditions that are conducive to oral health through schools, families and the community.
  • Reorient Health Services. This document outlines how health services and resources can be oriented toward outreach care and made more accessible to support effective oral health promotion within a Health-Promoting School setting.

How should this document be used?

Sections 2 and 3 can be used to argue for implementation strategies to promote oral health in schools, emphasising that oral health promotion should form part of general health promotion.

Section 4 helps create a strong basis for local action and for planning interventions that are relevant and responsive to needs and circumstances of the school and local community.

Section 5 highlights ways to integrate health promotion efforts into various components of a Health-Promoting School, while Section 6 provides examples of methods used in evaluating efforts to make oral health promotion an essential part of a Health-Promoting School.

Related document

Download Document