Oral health epidemic: New report highlights the effect of rising costs on children’s teeth

by | Feb 14, 2023

A new report, published by Beauty Banks and the British Dental Association (BDA), uncovers the impact of the Cost of Living Crisis on children’s oral health 

From teachers handing out toothpaste to 1 in 2 children isolating from school, the report The Tooth Hurts: Smiles shaped by poverty highlights the debilitating effects of hygiene poverty on children’s oral health. 

In a survey of 260 UK state secondary school teachers, the researchers found that 81% of young people don’t have access to regular toothpaste. This is leading to one-third of children being bullied, and 40% being socially excluded by their peers. 

These findings spotlight the increasing hygiene challenges caused by the Cost of Living crisis and inflation. According to the Office of National Statistics’ consumer price inflation reports, the base price of toothpaste has increased by approximately £1.50 between June and December 2022. 

According to the British Dental Association, tooth decay in children has now reached epidemic levels. This is down to the increasing cost of dental treatments and availability of appointments – only 44.8% of young people visited their dentist last year, 13.9% down YOY. 

The report also unveils the detrimental effects of young people’s poor oral health on their teachers. 1 in 4 respondents said they are unable to sleep at night due to worrying about their students’ wellbeing, and 38% feel helpless. 

Jo Jones, co-founder of hygiene poverty charity Beauty Banks, says: ‘Toothpaste is now our most requested item. Before the Cost of Living Crisis, it wasn’t even in the top three. So, we initiated this research with the British Dental Association to fully understand the immediate and long-term impact of a lack of access to fundamental but vital oral hygiene essentials.’

In response BDA’s Chair, Eddie Crouch adds, ‘Our youngest patients face a perfect storm, with millions unable to access care, or even the basics to maintain good oral health. This shocking survey underlines that deep health inequalities are set to widen. Yet while our children face an epidemic of decay, the government seems asleep at the wheel.’ 

How can you help to make children’s oral health better?

To combat the issues raised by the report, Beauty Banks has launched a toothpaste-specific donation programme. With just £1, the charity can supply a school child or teacher with toothpaste for two months. 

Able to donate more? A £100 contribution provides three classrooms of school children and their teachers with a supply of toothpaste each for three months. 

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