The Toothbrushing Programme Improving Children’s Oral Health

A pilot scheme in nurseries is paving the way for improving children’s oral health.

A toothbrushing programme in early years settings has made children less reluctant to clean their teeth.

children's oral health

The programme was piloted in 68 nurseries and with 20 childminders from April. The Smiles4Children programme explores the best ways of getting children under five to brush their teeth during the nursery day. It also looks at how to involve parents and partnerships with dental surgeries. Already it is showing signs of improving children’s oral health.

Smiles4Children is continuing on in places that choose to participate. The scheme is now part of Action for Children and Public Health England (PHE). It is designed to support awareness of oral health in two, three and four year olds, improving children’s oral health and and achieve a generation free from tooth decay. According to PHE figures, more than a quarter of five-year-olds are suffering from tooth decay.

The logistics.

children's oral health

The pilots look at the logistics of introducing tooth brushing into settings as a routine daily activity, considering the best time to do it, whether singing songs helped to make tooth brushing fun, and practical ways of storing children’s tooth brushes. A study of the pilots highlighted that as a result of the programme, children who took part are less reluctant to brush their teeth at home. Also, the number of parents either attending or planning to attend a dentist with their child has increased.

Ahead of the programme, 27% of both parents and practitioners were unaware of the suggested amount of time for toothbrushing. While 67% didn’t know that you should not rinse your mouth after brushing.

Nursery managers and practitioners stated that daily toothbrushing was not seen as an additional burden, either financially or practically. The majority of settings (42%) found it ‘very easy’ to incorporate brushing into their daily routine. Having daily toothbrushing in nursery would do a lot in improving children’s oral health.

children's oral health

Sue Robb, head of early years at Action for Children, said:

“There are a number of toothbrushing programmes available for early years settings, however unlike in Scotland and Wales where there are national programmes to improve children’s oral health, there has not been a national voice in England.”

“We were not surprised to learn the toothbrushing programme made a difference to both children, staff and parents, as it is based on the one used in Scotland – Child Smiles.”

“It is such a simple and easy approach, yet makes such an impact upon children’s oral health.”

She went on to say:

children's oral health

“We have already had a lot of interest in the programme from nurseries, but going forward we want as many early years settings as possible to see the report and consider using the programme with the children in their care.”

If you are a parent, would you like to see this implemented in children’s nurseries? Do you think this is a positive step to improving children’s oral health?

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