01 APRIL 2019

Rochdale Council recently unveiled a new £1.5 million project to tackle childhood tooth decay and obesity. Here we take a look at the project and explain why we think it’s a step in the right direction.

First of all, why is it needed? Well, Rochdale have some of the worst rates of childhood tooth decay in the country:

  • Nearly half of all 5-year-olds in Rochester start school with tooth decay.1
  • There are currently over 200 hospital admissions a year for tooth extractions among Rochdale’s under 10s – making it the most common reason for them to be admitted to hospital.
  • Each extraction costs the NHS around £1,000. This adds up to a total bill of £20 million every year for treating preventable tooth decay in children across Greater Manchester.

Now these are pretty shocking statistics, which is why Rochdale council are now taking proactive steps to tackle the problem.

The new Greater Manchester programme aims to reach 90% of under 5s in Rochdale, Bolton, Oldham and Salford. It aims to tackle the widespread impact of high sugar diets and make regular tooth brushing the norm.

To do this, the plan includes ‘introducing supervised tooth brushing every day in schools and nurseries for children aged 2 to 5’. Building on that, Rochdale Council also plan to ‘train a network of dedicated ‘dental champions’, supported by expert external staff, to lead the way in improving dental care in Early Years settings.’

The proposed programme sounds extremely promising. If rolled out effectively, it will undoubtably have a positive impact on childhood oral health in the area for generations to come. Incorporating good oral health into early years education lays the foundations for good oral health for life.

Last year, we conducted a survey that found more than half (56%) of British adults regret not taking better care for their oral health earlier in life.2 Perhaps, if more projects like this one had been available, then more people would have had the means and opportunity to be happier with the state of their oral health.

Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes more councils should take note and roll out similar programmes in their local communities.

Dr Carter says: “Childhood tooth decay desperately needs to be addressed and so we are pleased that Rochdale Council have taken action to tackle this. We hope that the good oral health habits the programme aims to instil in the classroom, will also be transferred to the home.

“The key to improving oral health is education. The more that children, parents and families can learn about how to achieve good oral health, including the importance of a healthy diet, the more likely it is that healthy habits are picked up and kept to.

“One of the most urgent topics we need to address is the danger of added sugar in a child’s diet.  As a population, our sugar consumption is heading out of control. Currently, children already exceed the maximum recommended sugar intake for an 18-year-old by the time they reach their tenth birthday3. This has led to dangerous levels of childhood tooth decay, diabetes and obesity.

“Something needs to change. Local authorities across the UK need to follow examples set by Rochdale Council and adopt similar programmes.”

Unfortunately, we still have quite a way to go to improving children’s oral health in the UK. However, by rolling more programmes that focus on toothbrushing, sugar and dental visits, we can begin to reverse the tide and transform the oral health of future generations.


  1. Rochdale Borough Council (2019), Stopping the rot - new £1.5 million programme tackles tooth decay, http://www.rochdale.gov.uk/news/Pages/new-programme-tackles-tooth-decay.aspx (accessed March 2019)
  2. Oral Health Foundation (2018) ‘National Smile Month Survey 2018’, Atomik Research, United Kingdom, Sample Size 2,005
  3. GOV.UK (2019), 10 year olds in the UK have consumed 18 years’ worth of sugar, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/10-year-olds-in-the-uk-have-consumed-18-years-worth-of-sugar (accessed March 2019)