The United Kingdom Lags in School-Based Oral Health Education

Dentistry Today

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Today on World Oral Health Day (WOHD), the FDI World Dental Federation released the results of a survey from 13 countries that asked parents with children between the ages of 5 and 16 if their child’s school provided lessons on good oral care.

Poor oral health leads to more than 50 million school hours lost each year, FDI reports, while affecting confidence, social skills, and potential for success later in life. Oral health is therefore essential to a child’s general health and well-being, FDI says.

The survey asked parents if their child’s school provided lessons about the importance of good oral care. According to FDI, only 29% of parents in the United Kingdom said this was the case, placing it last in the group of polled countries.

The other counties included the United States (53%), Australia (54%), Germany (69%), China (77%), Saudi Arabia (81%), Poland (84%), Morocco and Algeria (86%), Indonesia (87%), Brazil and India (91%), and Mexico (93%).

Additionally, 49% of parents in the United Kingdom didn’t know how often their child’s school provided lessons about good oral care, followed by Australia (35%), the United States (32%), German (19%), Saudi Arabia (12%), Poland (10%), China, Indonesia, and Morocco (9%), Algeria (6%), India (5%), Brazil (3%), and Mexico (1%).  

“The survey results show that not all parents know if their children are receiving oral health education at school. We must fill this knowledge gap, as oral diseases are the most prevalent disease globally and affect 3.58 billion people, equivalent to half of the world’s population,” said FDI president Dr. Kathryn Kell.

“What’s more, 486 million children suffer from tooth decay of primary teeth, which can cause premature tooth loss, pain, sleep disruption, problems eating, and other health issues for young children,” Kell said. “Schools must be encouraged to teach children about good oral care.”

The FDI reports that 71% of parents across all countries agreed that schools should teach children about good oral care and that 51% recognized that parents play a role in oral health education. 

“Good oral health habits start early, and we need to encourage children to brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and help them avoid foods and drinks high in sugars. We also need to prioritize regular dental checkups,” said WOHD Task Team chair Dr. Edoardo Cavalle. 

“Millions of school days are lost each year because of poor oral health, seriously affecting a child’s ability to perform at school. Together, parents, and teachers must play a key role in keeping a healthy mouth and teeth, which will help secure the general health and well-being of future generations,” said Cavalle. 

To help parents and teachers, FDI has developed Mouth Heroes, a multimedia resource that provides tools to deliver engaging lessons about the importance of good oral health for children between the ages of 5 and 9. Other resources also are available through the WOHD website.

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