Nottingham City Council has launched a new scheme in partnership with Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to help primary schools to encourage their children and families to take better care of their dental health – and their smiles.

The Brushing Buddies scheme is being introduced to 25 City primary and nursery schools over the next few months, where teaching staff will be educating young children on how to brush their teeth while at school or nursery.

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 school and local community. The programme has been tailored to the needs of each school depending on the number of children and facilities on site. Local dental practices will be supporting the scheme and encouraging families to take their children to the dentist from an early age to make sure they keep their mouths healthy.

The new Brushing Buddies scheme will help to tackle the level of poor dental health across the city, where 38.5% of five year olds and 17% of three year olds have already experienced dental decay.

In addition:

• Rates of dental decay are higher in Nottingham City than the average for England and are the second highest among the local authorities in the East Midlands.
• The prevalence of decay is associated with deprivation, and there will be areas in the city where young children have even higher levels of decay
• Child access to dental services in Nottingham is similar to the England average (March 2015).
• However fewer than 20% of three year olds in the city have visited a NHS dentist in the past year (March 2014 – 17.5%), despite the fact that there is good access to NHS dental care across the city.

Coun Alex Norris, City Council portfolio holder for public health said:

“It’s easy for young children to forget to brush their teeth or to do it in a hurry and not clean them properly. Over time, this can cause problems like or tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease and oral cancers in later life.

“Children who have decay in their baby teeth will go on to develop decay in their adult teeth. Therefore, unless significantly 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 properly. Showing children how to brush their teeth, paying attention to the back teeth and harder to reach areas is crucial in developing their knowledge and confidence. This helps them to develop good oral health habits which will have a lifelong benefit.”

Julia Wilkinson, Head of Oral Health Promotion at County Health Partnerships, part of Nottinghamshire Healthcare said:

“Brushing Buddies is an innovative, supervised toothbrushing programme especially designed for our diverse array of local primary schools. We have involved children, teaching staff and local families in the planning and delivery to ensure Brushing Buddies embraces all the unique features of every child and school. We hope that working together we can really make a difference to the super smiles of our children.”

Rachel Jurkiw, teacher at Dunkirk Nursery School said:

“Brushing Buddies has been a huge success in our nursery. Children absolutely love it. Children have reminded us when it is time to brush their teeth.”

There are a number helpful hints for parents to encourage children to develop an effective toothbrushing routine:

• Supervise toothbrushing until your child is seven or eight years old, either by brushing their teeth yourself or, if they brush their own teeth, by watching how they do it and helping them at the end
• Brush twice a day –just before bedtime and on at least one other occasion
• Use a family fluoride toothpaste and an age appropriate child toothbrush.
• Aim to brush for two minutes – use a timer or phone app so that they know how long they need to brush for.
• Spit don’t rinse after brushing – rinsing with water washes away the protective fluoride. Just spit out.
• Introduce your child to the sights and sounds of the dental practice at an early age to allay any fears that might develop. Take them with you when you go for a check-up.

Avoid sugary foods and drinks such as soft or fizzy drinks and sweetened juices. The best drinks for children over one year old are plain still water or plain milk.For more information about oral health and children, go to NHS Choices