28 MAY 2020

Almost one-in-eight (12%) children have woken up from a nightmare about their oral health, according to the findings of a new study.

The data, collected from around 1,500 British parents, suggests that today’s children are over ten times more likely to suffer from bad dreams about their teeth than an adult.

The investigation by Oral Health Foundation, points to nightmares about the mouth being more common in earlier years – affecting nearly one-in-five (18%) children aged five and under.

Further findings show almost one-in-two (47%) children have expressed anxieties about their oral health to their parents.  This number rises for children under five.   

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes younger children are becoming more conscious of the appearance of their teeth, which is causing unnecessary and harmful stress.

Dr Carter says: “It is really common for children between the ages of three and five to suffer from nightmares.  This is the time when their imagination begins to develop and, along with the experiences they collect throughout the day, can influence the state of their dreams.

“Younger children are being exposed to more television and social media, where the aesthetics of smile do not represent what can be considered normal or naturally-achievable.  This paints a false image of what their teeth should look like and can create lasting insecurities.

“With more video calls to family and friends, especially during lockdown, children are also seeing themselves on screen far more often.  This too makes them more conscious of their appearance.”

The new study also found that nearly one-in-five (18%) children under five have opened up to their parents about not liking their smile. 

The charity is extremely concerned by the findings, that also show more one-in-four (29%) children under five have spoken to their parents about changing the appearance of their smile.

The new research has been conducted by the Oral Health Foundation as part of National Smile Month, a campaign that aims to raise awareness around the value of having good oral health.

As part of the campaign, the charity is giving advice to parents and families about how to maintain a healthy smile.

“The best approach to tackle any insecurities a child has about their smile is to introduce children to oral health education at the earliest age possible,” adds Dr Carter.

“By teaching children basic lessons about oral health, why we have teeth and how to keep them clean, we reassure them that the best teeth are not necessarily the straightest or whitest, but the ones that are healthy.

“There are so many online learning programmes and activities that can make oral health education fun and appealing.  By teaching children at home about how to achieve good oral health you can help boost their confidence and reduce any anxieties they may have about their smile.”

The Oral Health Foundation’s Dental Buddy programme can be downloaded for free on the charity’s website.  Dental Buddy has games, lesson plans and activities for children from Early Years Foundation Stage, up to Key Stage 2.  

To access Dental Buddy, and for information about National Smile Month, visit www.smilemonth.org


Oral Health Foundation (2020) ‘National Smile Month Survey 2020’, April 2020, UK, parent data, sample 1,450.