A new toolkit to increase supervised toothbrushing for younger children aims to address health inequalities caused by tooth decay.
A quarter of five-year-olds in England have tooth decay and this can rise up to half in deprived areas of the country. Tooth decay is a significant burden, causing pain, as well as affecting what children eat, their speech, sleep, quality of life and attendance at nursery or school. Treatment of decay is the most common reason why young children are admitted to hospital (33,000 each year), costing the NHS over £50 million annually.
As part of PenARC’s Children’s Health and Maternity National Priority Programme, researchers from the University of Sheffield, University of Leeds and Bradford Improvement Academy, have developed free online resources for The Supervised Toothbrushing Toolkit for NHS organisations, local government, schools, nurseries and parents, as part of the BRUSH project to better support existing and new toothbrushing programmes.
Co-lead of the study, Professor Zoe Marshman, Professor in Dental Public Health at the University of Sheffield, said:
“One of the key ways to prevent tooth decay is toothbrushing with a fluoride toothpaste. Toothbrushing programmes in nurseries and early years at school are really important to complement toothbrushing at home.
“We already know supervised toothbrushing programmes for young children are effective in reducing tooth decay, and easy for nurseries/schools to run. However, the uptake and maintenance of these programmes has been fragmented.
“The new toolkit will make it easier for new toothbrushing programmes to be set up, meaning more children will be able to benefit from the programmes so less children suffer from tooth decay and its consequences.”
Dr Gretchen Bjornstad, PenARC Senior Research and Programme Lead for the Children’s Health and Maternity National Priority Programme said:
“The NIHR Children’s Health and Maternity National Priority Programme supports research projects to increase the implementation of effective programmes. The BRUSH project is a brilliant example of how to work with stakeholders at all levels and bring together the best resources and advice to promote the uptake of supervised toothbrushing programmes. We know that these programmes will prevent tooth decay in young children.
“This toolkit provides support and information for commissioners, providers, early years settings, and families to make it easier to successfully implement supervised toothbrushing in more settings across the country.”
The BRUSH project was funded and supported by PenARC, with the researchers working with NIHR ARC Yorkshire and Humber to understand how best to implement and evaluate supervised toothbrushing programmes.
Co-lead of the BRUSH study, Dr Kara Gray-Burrows Lecturer in Behavioural Science & Complex Intervention Methodology at the University of Leeds, said: “We know that there’s good practice and excellent resources out there, so our project was about bringing together all that’s already good and seeing what gaps there were.
“The toolkit is a central one-stop-shop sharing best practice and containing new materials we have developed to give organisations setting up these programmes, nurseries, schools, parents and children the relevant information and resources easily.”
Talking about the toothbrushing club at Tinsley Meadows Primary Academy in Sheffield, David Yates (Nursery Teacher ), said: “At first I did think, we’re going to do toothbrushing now and we’ve got 60 children, what if it is chaos and they’re all brushing each other’s hair or things like that! But they are really good at it, seem to enjoy and engage with it.”
Professor Claire Stevens CBE, Spokesperson from The British Society of Paediatric Dentistry, said: “BSPD welcomes the BRUSH initiative. We know that a targeted supervised toothbrushing
approach is one of the priority solutions to tackling the oral health inequalities in our society.
The fact that BRUSH will provide a new free access-to-all toolkit to help facilitate supervised
toothbrushing will go a long way to making this simple but highly effective intervention get
traction. It will improve young children’s oral health in the short-term, whilst setting them on
the path to a life-time of good oral care practice for life.
“Whilst BSPD believes that every child should have a ‘dental home’ – an ongoing and
preventively focused relationship with an NHS dentist, with children’s dental services in crisis,
we urgently need to take a creative approach to address the persistent and immoral
inequalities we see in children’s oral health. BRUSH provides a wonderful toolkit that will
help everyone showing children how to clean their teeth.”
Hayden Ridsdale, Strategy and Transformation Programme Manager, NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board, said: “As a commissioner of dental services in West Yorkshire I think the BRUSH toolkit is a fantastic resource to enable the implementation of supervised toothbrushing schemes. In West Yorkshire we’ve embedded it into our contracts with our five local authority partners to ensure good practice guides service delivery.”