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Health visitors’ views on promoting oral health and supporting clients with dental health problems: a qualitative study

Lookup NU author(s): Jonathan Lewney, Dr Richard HolmesORCiD, Professor Judith Rankin, Professor Catherine Exley



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Oxford University Press, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Background: Inequalities in dental decay in young children persist, resulting in high admission rates for general anaesthetics for tooth extractions. Health visitors have the potential to improve dental attendance and oral health in families least likely to engage with dental services. There is little evidence on health visitor views on this. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 17 health visitors working in both affluent and deprived areas in a single UK city. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, anonymised and analysed following a constructivist grounded theory approach. Results: Knowledge of oral health was high and health visitors requested oral health education specific to the communities they worked in. Health visitors reported effective, formal referral processes to other health services but not to primary NHS dental services even when dealing with infants in pain. Health visitors interviewed were largely unaware of specific NHS dental services which reduce barriers to dental care including interpreting services and dental services for children with additional needs. Conclusions: Health visitors interviewed were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about oral health but not about dental services. Inadequate links with NHS dental services may limit their effectiveness in oral health improvement and this needs to be addressed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lewney J, Holmes RD, Rankin J, Exley C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Public Health

Year: 2019

Volume: 41

Issue: 1

Pages: e103-e108

Print publication date: 01/03/2019

Online publication date: 18/06/2018

Acceptance date: 29/05/2018

Date deposited: 01/06/2018

ISSN (print): 1741-3842

ISSN (electronic): 1741-3850

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdy107


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