New initiative to tackle tooth decay in secondary school pupils

12th July 2023

A new initiative aiming to combat tooth decay in secondary school pupils is being rolled out in schools across the UK.

  • Researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Cardiff, Leeds, York and Dundee conducted the BRIGHT trial to investigate a new school-based intervention aimed at reducing dental cavities in young people
  • Tooth decay affects a third of young people aged 12-15 - this increases to a half in young people living in areas of poverty
  • Young people with tooth decay often suffer from toothache, loss of sleep and problems eating as well as it affecting their overall physical health and mental wellbeing
  • Tooth decay can also lead to increased school absences

A new initiative aiming to combat tooth decay in secondary school pupils is being rolled out in schools across the UK.

Tooth decay is a very common disease affecting a third of young people aged 12-15 years. This increases to nearly a half in youngsters living in areas of poverty.

Recognising the vital need to prevent dental cavities in young people, researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Cardiff, Leeds, York and Dundee have created innovative new resources for secondary school pupils through the BRIGHT trial, which is being rolled out in secondary schools.

The resources, which have already been downloaded more than 300 times, have been awarded a Quality Mark from the PSHE Association and are available for teachers to access and download to share with Key Stage 3 students.

Professor Zoe Marshman, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry, who co-led the BRIGHT trial, said: 

“Tooth decay and all its negative consequences such as toothache, loss of sleep and problems eating are very common in children of secondary school age. While school-based initiatives for children between the ages of 4-11 have been delivered for decades, there is very little for secondary schools.

“However, this is a critical stage for toothbrushing practices to become an established behaviour for adulthood. This is why it is vital to help young people to improve their understanding of the importance of toothbrushing and skills to prevent tooth decay.”

The new resources will help students to:

  • approach tooth brushing in a more positive way
  • consider their own motivations for tooth brushing
  • reflect on their barriers to tooth brushing
  • complete an action plan to support sustainable good oral health

Professor Nicola Innes from Cardiff University, and co-lead of the BRIGHT trial, said:

“Poor dental health and toothache negatively impacts young people’s health, wellbeing and education. Their developing independence however, means this is the ideal time to support them in establishing good oral health behaviours for the rest of their life. Our co-developed school-based resource is readily available for delivery by educators.” 

PSHE Association Subject Specialist, Bethan Miller, said:

"Promoting good dental hygiene routines is an important aspect of statutory Health education. The engaging activities in this lesson, developed with the support of young people, help students to understand good brushing technique, and identify and overcome real-world barriers to toothbrushing."

Further research as part of the BRIGHT Trial is ongoing with findings expected to be published later in the year.

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