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UK schools bottom of the class for oral health education

Schools in the United Kingdom have been ranked as the worst for educating children about their oral health.

According to the findings of a new YouGov survey, less than one in three (29%) British children aged between five and 16 are given lessons about the importance of good oral care.

The research highlights how far UK schools are falling behind when it comes to teaching young children about looking after the health of their mouth.

Mexico top the global list, where more than nine in ten (93%) school children are being taught about the importance of oral health.

The UK are also significantly behind the United States (53%), Australia (54%), Germany (69%), China (77%), Brazil and India (91%).

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says it is a failing of the government and calls on ministers to give oral health a more prominent place in the curriculum.

Dr Carter says: “The news that the UK is at the bottom of the heap when it comes to oral health education is extremely disappointing but is sadly not a surprise.

“Teachers have an important role to play in educating children from an early age about their wellbeing and oral health should fall within this.

“The government continues to ignore the importance of oral hygiene for a young person’s overall wellbeing. Oral health is absent in the school curriculum and our children are suffering as a result.

“Scotland and Wales have had some success in educating youngsters through a designated oral health programme, but England is lagging behind. A collective, co-ordinated plan is needed.”

Further findings from the survey revealed that nearly half (49%) of British parents “didn’t know” how often their child’s school gave lessons on the importance of good oral care.

In comparison, Australia (35%) and the USA (32%) were next, followed by Germany (19%), Saudi Arabia (12%), Poland (10%), China, Indonesia and Morocco (9%), Algeria (6%), India (5%), Brazil (3%) and Mexico (1%).

Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions among children in the UK, with extractions estimated to have cost the NHS over £200 million since 2012.

Public Health England (PHE), have also found that at least 60,000 school days are missed every year due to tooth extractions.

Dr Carter adds: “We all have a responsibility to protect kids from tooth decay and unnecessary suffering. Government and local authorities must now work alongside parents, health professionals and teachers to provide an effective and long-term solution.

“As a charity, we support around 1,000 nurseries and schools each year, and we will continue to do our upmost to help increase the amount and quality of oral health education in the classroom.”

The Oral Health Foundation has a number of children’s oral health programmes that are freely downloadable from the charity’s website.  Modules have been created for Early Years’ Education, Key Stage One and Key Stage Two. 

% of children taught about oral health at school by country















Saudi Arabia








United States of America


United Kingdom


The Oral Health Foundation is the leading national charity working to improve oral health. Our goal is to improve people’s lives by reducing the harm caused by oral diseases – many of which are entirely preventable.

Established more than 45 years ago, we continue to provide expert, independent and impartial advice on all aspects of oral health to those who need it most. We work closely with Government, dental and health professionals, manufacturers, the dental trade, national and local agencies and the public, to achieve our mission of addressing the inequalities which exist in oral health, changing people’s lives for the better.

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