Monday 5 October 2015

Daily tooth brushing clubs and healthy eating regimes have been introduced in special support schools across Sheffield as part of a raft of measures to prevent tooth decay.

National research has shown children in special support schools, which educate children with severe special education needs and disabilities, have slightly lower rates of tooth decay than children in mainstream schools. However, they are more likely to have these teeth extracted.

Now Sheffield City Council, working with Public Health England and NHS partners, has taken steps to improve oral health at these schools.

Devina Worsley, a registrar in dental public health who carried out the review for Sheffield City Council said: “The risk factors for tooth decay are diets high in sugary food and drinks and lack of exposure to fluoride.


“The majority of tooth decay can be prevented and this can be supported through school based oral health promotion activities, for example, through providing a supportive school environment with healthy choices for food, drinks and snacks. Other ways to prevent tooth decay include integrating oral health education into the school curriculum and school tooth brushing clubs using fluoride toothpaste.”


Ten special schools in Sheffield provide education and care to 1,030 children aged five to 19 years. The children have a wide range of different needs including severe and complex learning disabilities, autism, severe physical and/or medical needs, complex speech, language and social communication disabilities.

From April 2013, local authorities became responsible for improving the oral health of their communities and for commissioning oral health promotion services. An aim of the Sheffield Oral Health Improvement Strategy 2014–17, commissioned by Sheffield City Council, is to improve oral health and reduce inequalities, particularly of children and young people in Sheffield. This included a commitment to review the oral health promotion activities in special schools and to implement a new oral health promotion action plan.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families added: “There is no doubt that getting all children into a good tooth brushing routine can prevent decay and ultimately save teeth. That’s why it’s great that by working together the council, health services and special schools are introducing these excellent preventative measures. All children deserve the best start in life and making access to oral health care and education on nutrition part of school routine has got to help.”

Experts recommend supervised tooth brushing schemes in schools where children are at high risk of poor oral health and training and support of staff setting up and running tooth brushing schemes.

As a result of this report Sheffield City Council has now commissioned:

  • daily tooth brushing clubs in classes in special schools where there is a need
  • training and continued support for school staff in tooth brushing


The council is also:

  • Including all children in special schools in the School Starters Scheme, in which children starting school in Sheffield are each provided with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Promoting attendance at the dentist at least twice a year for children attending special support schools.





Notes to Editors:


Oral health improvement is concerned with not only optimising the state of the teeth, but the gums, and other organs inside and outside the mouth, including addressing the challenges faced by edentulous (or toothless) individuals, and preventing and effectively managing  tumours and cancers of the oral cavity or mouth.

The priority of oral health is highlighted by the fact that poor oral health does have an impact on appearance, self-confidence, and it contributes to the cause of important conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.




For more information please contact Emma Hollingworth, Communications, on 0114 205 3547 or 07710 737905. Email


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