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Supervised toothbrushing in nurseries and schools seeing encouraging recovery post-pandemic

Published: 18 October 2023

The number of children participating in supervised toothbrushing at nursery and school has recovered following the Covid-19 pandemic.  

In the 2022/23 academic year, 1003 nurseries and schools provided a daily supervised toothbrushing programme, with 50,705 children participating. The Designed to Smile oral health improvement programme also distributed 166,940 toothbrushing home packs via schools and nurseries, and a further 23,644 were given out by health visitors.  

The findings published in the Designed to Smile annual report show a substantial recovery in the number of young children benefiting, after delivery of the programme was disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the 2021/22 academic year, 317 nurseries and schools were supported to restart supervised toothbrushing, which represented 20 per cent of eligible schools and nurseries. In 2022/23, 60 per cent of eligible education settings took part, showing an increase of 686. However, there is still room for improvement to recover participation to pre-pandemic levels, as 1,396 schools and nurseries (82 per cent of those eligible) took part in the 2018/19 academic year. 

Dr Mary Wilson, Consultant in Dental Public Health at Public Health Wales, said: ”Designed to Smile staff across the seven Local Health Boards have worked tremendously hard with our dedicated nurseries and schools to re-establish the supervised toothbrushing programme. 

“This is an evidence-based, effective intervention that contributes to our goal to reduce childhood tooth decay, particularly in disadvantaged areas. We have seen similar recovery of the fluoride varnish programme, and we hope for further success in this current academic year.”