22 March 2019

Schools in the United Kingdom have been ranked as the worst for educating children about their oral health.

According to the findings of a new YouGov survey, less than one in three (29%) British children aged between five and 16 are given lessons about the importance of good oral care.

The research highlights how far UK schools are falling behind when it comes to teaching young children about looking after the health of their mouth.

Mexico top the global list, where more than nine in ten (93%) school children are being taught about the importance of oral health.

The UK are also significantly behind the United States (53%), Australia (54%), Germany (69%), China (77%), Brazil and India (91%).

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says the results of the survey further reinforce the need for a more hands-on approach from the government. 

Dr Carter says: “The news that the UK is at the bottom of the heap when it comes to oral health education is extremely disappointing but is sadly not a surprise.

“The government continues to ignore the importance of oral hygiene for a young person’s overall wellbeing. Oral health is absent in the school curriculum and our children are suffering as a result.”

Further findings from the survey revealed that nearly half (49%) of British parents “didn’t know” how often their child’s school gave lessons on the importance of good oral care.

In comparison, Australia (35%) and the USA (32%) were next, followed by Germany (19%), Saudi Arabia (12%), Poland (10%), China, Indonesia and Morocco (9%), Algeria (6%), India (5%), Brazil (3%) and Mexico (1%).

“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 some success in educating youngsters through a designated oral health programme, but England is lagging behind. A collective, co-ordinated plan is needed.”

Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions among children in the UK, with extractions estimated to have cost the NHS over £200 million since 2012.

Public Health England (PHE), have also found that at least 60,000 school days are missed every year due to tooth extractions.

Dr Carter says: “There are children up and down the country who are in pain due to the lack of attention their teeth have been given in their early, most crucial years.

“We all have a responsibility to protect kids from tooth decay and unnecessary suffering. Government and local authorities must now work alongside parents, health professionals and teachers to provide an effective and long-term solution.”