The charity is working with 90 nurseries and childminders to test out the feasibility of a nationwide supervised tooth brushing programme in early years settings. More than 5,000 under-fives will be involved in the initial scheme.
More than a quarter of five-year-olds are suffering from tooth decay, according to Public Health England. Last month, research by the Local Government Association found that the cost of children’s tooth extractions in hospitals has risen by more than 60 per cent in the past five years.
The pilots will look at the logistics of introducing tooth brushing into settings as a routine daily activity, looking at areas such as the best time to do it, whether singing songs helps to make tooth brushing fun, and practical ways of storing children’s tooth brushes.
The trial is also looking at how to involve parents and partnerships with dental surgaries.
The pilot will run in 4Children’s own settings and in 25 other nurseries run by two other nursery groups.
Sue Robb, head of early years at 4Children, said, ‘We have an oral health crisis among our under-fives that is set to get worse without immediate intervention. It is unacceptable that tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital general anaesthetic admissions for children under five. Provided that children have a good approach to oral hygiene, tooth decay is preventable.
‘Early years settings have been really keen to take part, recognising the powerful impact they can have in shaping young children’s attitudes towards tooth brushing and making it a fun activity they can share with friends.
Eustace de Sousa, national lead for Children, Young People and Families, Public Health England, said, ‘Regular, supervised tooth brushing is an effective way of avoiding so many children in England having to undergo painful medical procedures for tooth extraction.
‘Early years settings have an important role to play in promoting public health messages, including the importance of good oral hygiene. By working together across health, education and the voluntary and community sector, we can take the important steps needed to work together with families and ensure every child has the best start in life.’
- 4Children’s Healthy Children, Bright Futures conference on 16 June includes a line-up of expert speakers on a range of topics including oral hygiene, nutrition and physical activity.