22 January 2020

New research finds that one in ten (10%) children leave primary school without essential life skills, like brushing their teeth1.

The study, conducted by Tic Watches, involved 500 parents and revealed that this essential oral health skill is just one of a number of basic skills that thousands of primary school leavers lack as they head toward their teenage years.

Following these results, the Oral Health Foundation is calling for greater attention to be paid to the oral health of young children across the UK.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “Learning to brush our teeth should be one of the first life skills we learn as youngsters and carry forward with us as we grow older.

“It is never too early to learn about the importance of good oral health and all aspects of how to achieve a good hygiene.

“By the age of 11, children should be able to brush their own teeth, twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste. The earlier they take an active role in maintaining good hygiene, the more likely they are to maintain these habits as they get older.

“Having great oral health can provide a number of benefits throughout our lives, so ensuring children learn how to achieve it must be a priority.”

The research also highlighted that girls are significantly likely to be able to brush their teeth than their male counterparts.

According to the study, one in seven (15%) of girls leave primary school unable to brush their teeth without help, compared to just 4% of boys.

“Parents and teachers have an important role to play in educating children from an early age on the importance of maintaining good oral health, but they need support,” adds Dr Carter.

“Scotland and Wales have had great success in educating youngsters through a designated oral health programme, but we are yet to see a similar initiative in England.

“The government must prioritise oral health education across the country and ensure children have the tools and information they need to look after their mouths as they grow and develop.

For more information on how to look after children’s teeth, please click here.


1. Tic Watches (2019) ‘One in ten leave primary school unable to brush their teeth’ [Press Release] 22 January. Available online https://bit.ly/2RJbdpG (accessed 22 January 2020).