The importance of context in improving child oral health: a conceptual model – ADOHTA 2021

The importance of context in improving child oral health: a conceptual model

Dr Nicole Stormon1, Professor Pauline Ford1, Associate Professor Ratilal Lalloo1

1The University Of Queensland, Australia

Background: Studying the populations’ oral health does not always result in action or a positive change. Despite an understanding of the biomedical and social determinants of dental caries, the global burden of disease remains high in children. The translation of research into practice is difficult due to the complexities of context.

Aim: The aim of this paper is to build on empirical data and conceptual understandings of dental caries in children, and to propose an updated conceptual model of children’s oral health embedding concepts within the broader context of where these factors occur.

Methodology: The conceptual model presented here was derived from historical conceptual models of children oral health and up to date empirical literature. Using previous literature influences of children’s oral health were qualitatively described.

Results: The four domains influencing child dental caries are: time, individual and family-level influences, and context. Time in relation to child oral health is experienced through age, period and cohort effects. The context in which family and individual-level factors are embedded are influenced by social and economic opportunity, government and health system policy and structures, technology, stakeholders and population health needs and demands. The characteristics of the contextual factors ideally create a health promoting and preventive environment, whereby the influences relevant to the local population are understood and controlled to prevent caries in children.

Conclusions: This conceptual model provides a holistic view of the complexities of children’s oral health and should be used to guide future research, policies, practices and promote collaboration for the betterment of children’s oral health. If we are to achieve the real-world impact of bridging the gap between knowledge and implementation of evidence to improve children’s oral health, all stakeholders must work together and knowledge translation must be the goal.


Nicole Stormon is an AHPRA registered Oral health therapist and Lecturer the University of Queensland. Nicole is the current President of the Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association. As an early career researcher, Nicole has published in high quality journals, numerous conference presentation and research collaborations. During her doctoral research, she investigated influences of Australian children’s oral health using national longitudinal datasets. Health service research is a key theme of her research, with ongoing collaborations with Queensland Health to develop evidence-based and cost-effective models of dental care for children and disadvantaged groups, including people experiencing homelessness.