Nursery toothbrushing reduces decay

A nursery toothbrushing programme has produced a saving to the cost of children’s dental treatment of just under £6million.

A study carried out by the University of Glasgow has found that in 2009/10, the toothbrushing initiative had seen the cost of treating dental disease reduce by over 50 per cent since 2001/02. It was led by Lorna Macpherson, Professor of Dental Public Health at the University of Glasgow's Dental School.

The programme, which began in 2001 and costs around £1.9 million each year, sees every nursery in Scotland offering free, daily, supervised toothbrushing for their children by nursery staff.

It is part of the Childsmile programme, which emphasises the importance of toothbrushing and helps parents establish a healthy diet from the earliest stage.

A number of nurseries and schools in targeted areas also provide fluoride varnish and toothbrushing in primary one and two.

Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson said: “This is an amazing achievement and shows just how much can be saved from a very simple health intervention – toothbrushing in nursery schools.

“This has seen less tooth decay in children which means less toothache, fewer sleepless nights and less time off school.

“By this simple measure, NHS costs associated with the dental disease of five-year-old children have decreased dramatically.

“More children can just be treated routinely in the dental chair because they need less invasive treatments, so fewer fillings and fewer extractions, and many more children with much better oral health than we have seen in many years.

“A very big well done and congratulations to all those, particularly nursery staff, who have been involved in delivering this very successful project which also delivers tremendous value for money.”

Financial YearCost of toothbrushing in nurseriesExpected savings resulting from actual and anticipated dental treatments in 5-year-olds (in comparison with 2001/02 costs of actual and anticipated dental treatments)
2001/02 £1,873,335 £0
2002/03 £1,873,335 - £ 251,716 (additional cost in 2002/03 in comparison with 2001/02 costs)
2003/04 £1,873,335 £1,506,000
2004/05 £1,873,335 £2,536,400
2005/06 £1,873,335 £3,566,799
2006/07 £1,873,335 £4,089,052
2007/08 £1,873,335 £4,611,304
2008/09 £1,873,335 £5,202,644
2009/10 £1,873,335 £5,793,983

For more information please contact Nick Wade in the University of Glasgow's Media Relations Office 01413307126 or at

Notes to editors:

The success of the programme has been evaluated by the University of Glasgow in a major study funded by the Scottish Government.

The study shows the full impact of the programme can be seen in terms of the number of dental extractions and fillings saved and fewer children needing general anaesthetics. Theatre time in hospital has been released because less children need intervention and can now just be treated routinely by their own dentist.

The NHS costs associated with the dental disease of five-year-old children decreased dramatically over time, with the findings suggesting that within three years the cost savings outweighed the costs of implementing the tooth brushing programme and by eight years the savings were in excess of three times these costs. These savings were associated with the national roll-out of the nursery toothbrushing programme and an improvement in children’s oral health.

The results of this research are being presented at the European Association of Dental Public Health Conference and will be discussed at the Council of European Chief Dental Officers, both events being held in Malta next week.

First published: 12 November 2013