Safeguarding and welfare

Oral health

Find out about promoting oral health as part of the early years foundation stage (EYFS).

Why oral health is included in the EYFS framework

This has been included because good oral health habits need to be formed from the earliest age. Tooth decay is largely preventable, but it’s still a serious problem among young children.

Nearly a quarter of 5 year olds in England have tooth decay, with 3 or 4 teeth affected on average. Tooth extraction is one of the most common procedures for children under 6 in hospital. Extraction is also the most common reason for hospital admission for children aged 6 to 10. Children from more deprived backgrounds are more likely to have tooth decay.

Children who have toothache, or need treatment, may have pain or infections. This can have a wider effect and lead to problems eating, sleeping, socialising and learning.

Promoting oral health

You can decide how you promote oral health, based on what works best in your setting. Ideally, you can link oral health to things you already promote, like self-care, healthy eating and physical development.

Be playful with children about oral health. Suggest they brush the teeth of dolls or soft toys. Read stories about teeth and smiles. Talk about healthy food and drinks that help to grow strong teeth, and those that do not. Get them to look at their own and each other’s teeth, using mirrors.

Talk about tooth brushing with fluoride toothpaste as children arrive. Give parents and carers knowledge and practical advice to support oral health at home.

You can also support children’s awareness of oral health by:

  • visiting dentists or having them visit you
  • providing or showing toothbrushing kits
  • showing toothbrushing routines

Supervised toothbrushing

You can decide if you want to bring in supervised toothbrushing. There are various schemes that support this. Speak to your local authority about it and read the supervised tooth brushing programme toolkit from Public Health England.

If you decide to introduce supervised toothbrushing, read the guidance on supervised toothbrushing during coronavirus (COVID-19).

Useful resources

Public Health England: health matters child dental health, guidance to help you prevent tooth decay in children under 5, including links to e-learning.

Children’s Oral Health: healthcare e-learning, aimed at parents, early years healthcare workers, teachers, nurses, GPs and the public.

Oral Health Foundation: early years foundation stage, how children can keep their mouth healthy and the best way to brush your teeth.

Improving oral health in early years: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Pathways.

PACEY’s oral health advice: includes factsheet for parents.

PACEY’s nutrition spotlight, encouraging healthy eating habits.

Delivering oral health from Public Health England, includes a quick guide to healthy mouths in children.

Change4life children’s centre toolkit from Public Health England, for promoting healthy eating and dental health.