More than 1,300 children in Nottingham have benefited from a public health programme to promote the importance of brushing their teeth.

Brushing Buddies was launched in November 2015 with the intention of helping improve levels of dental health among infants. It started out at 25 nurseries and pre-schools in targeted areas of the city and will now be extended to include reception-age children in these schools.

The scheme, run jointly by Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, sees teaching staff trained to teach and support young children to brush their teeth while at school or nursery. During academic year 2016/17, a total of 1,335 children took part.

All ‘Brushing Buddies’ have been trained by Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s Oral Health Promotion Team in key oral health messages and also how to establish the programme in their own community. Local dental practices have supported the scheme and encouraged families to take their children to the dentist from an early age.

Brushing Buddies was introduced to tackle the level of poor dental health across the city, where in 2015 35.6% of five-year-olds (England 24.7%) were found to have already experienced dental decay. In 2013, the figure for three-year-olds was 16.6% (England 11.7%).

Fewer than 20% of three-year-olds in Nottingham visited an NHS dentist in 2014, despite the fact that there is good access to NHS dental care across the city.

The project is designed not only to teach children about healthy teeth, but to support the whole family and reinforce the message about brushing at home.

Councillor Alex Norris, Portfolio Holder for Adults and Health at Nottingham City Council, said: “It’s great that more than 1,300 children in the city have benefited from our Brushing Buddies scheme over the past year, and we hope to increase that figure to 3,000 now that it is being extended to reception classes.

“It’s easy for young children to forget to brush their teeth, or to do it in a hurry and not clean them properly, but those who have decay in their baby teeth will go on to develop decay in their adult teeth. Unless significant changes are made, these children will carry a burden of dental disease for life.

“Knowing how to brush teeth properly isn’t automatic. It’s something that has to be taught and many dentists will agree that even some adults don’t know how to brush their teeth correctly. Showing children how to brush is crucial in developing their knowledge and confidence.”

Feedback from children who took part in Brushing Buddies showed that they enjoyed taking part in the sessions, while teachers and parents reported that youngsters who had previously hated brushing began to take real pride in their teeth.

Alison Challenger, Director of Public Health at Nottingham City Council, said: “We were aware of a particular issue with poor dental health among children in certain areas of the city and Brushing Buddies was an attempt to tackle that in a fun and engaging way.

“Visits from the ‘Tooth Fairy’ and her team proved very popular and were a great way of encouraging young children to brush their teeth twice a day. We look forward to extending the project further in the coming months.”

Brushing Buddies representatives attended two summer roadshows in Bulwell and St Ann’s earlier this year and spoke to more than 100 people about the project and the benefits of regular teeth brushing.

Julia Wilkinson, Head of Oral Health Promotion at County Health Partnerships, part of Nottinghamshire Healthcare said: “We’re thrilled with how many pre-schools and nurseries came on board with Brushing Buddies and can’t wait to start working with local reception classes and teachers.

“We hope that by working together we can really make a difference to the super smiles of our children.”