Daily toothbrushing lessons at school – really?

Primary school children should have brushing sessions twice a day advises NICE


Reading, writing and… er… toothbrushing may be part of your child’s school day, following new recommendations by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). 


Schools should help children brush their teeth twice a day to stop rotting teeth says NICE. Under the proposals, schools will be asked to run daily sessions with, apparently, teaching assistants physically helping children aged between 3 and 11 to brush their teeth up to twice a day.

Pupils will also be given free toothbrushes and toothpaste to take home. This is all in response to deep concern that there’s a severe tooth decay and gum disease crisis affecting children, some as young as 3. 

On closer look, it appears that these guidelines aren’t initially designed for all schools. NICE recommends that ‘supervised tooth brushing schemes’ should be set up in primary schools in areas where children are at high risk of poor oral health. 

If the brushing scheme isn’t feasible then NICE says local authorities should ‘consider commissioning a community-based fluoride varnish programme for nurseries and primary schools’. What this means is children would be given at least 2 treatments a year of a temporary adhesive varnish of fluoride on their teeth. 

Alongside these recommendations is something that most parents would appreciate – making plain drinking water available for free and providing a choice of sugar-free snacks in vending machines.

And the response…

There have been some strong reactions – The Daily Mail led with the headline ‘Now nanny state wants lessons in brushing teeth!’ and a patient group condemned the plans as belonging to a ‘supernanny state’.

Clearly it would be yet another big task for teachers and teaching assistants, taking them away from teaching children core subjects. Knowing how difficult it can be to get one 4 year old brushing their teeth, imagine getting 30 – and all that toothpasty, wet mess that goes with it…

But Professor Elizabeth Kay, one of the authors of the report, explained that 25,000 young children every year have rotten teeth taken out.

“Given that we know how to prevent dental disease this really should not be happening. If there were a preventable medical condition which caused thousands of young children – mostly around five years old – to end up in hospital to have body parts removed, there would be an outcry,” she said.

What do you think? Is it a great idea to save teeth or bad news for schools?

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