Opportunities and challenges to promoting oral health in primary schools

Paul Gill, I.G. Chestnutt, D. Channing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inequalities in oral health in areas of socio-economic disadvantage are well recognised. As children spend a considerable proportion of their lives in education, schools can play a significant role in promoting children's health and oral health. However, to what extent schools are able to do this is unclear. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate opportunities and challenges to promoting oral health in primary schools. Methods. A purposive sample of 20 primary schools from socially and economically disadvantaged areas of Cardiff, UK were selected to participate in this qualitative study. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews conducted with head teachers or their nominated deputies. Results. General awareness of health and oral health was good, with all schools promoting the consumption of fruit, water and milk and discouraging products such as carbonated drinks and confectionaries. Health promotion schemes were implemented primarily to improve the health of the children, although schools felt they also offered the potential to improve classroom behaviour and attendance. However, oral health was viewed as a separate entity to general health and perceived to be inadequately promoted. Successful health promotion schemes were also influenced by the attitudes of headteachers. Most schools had no or limited links with local dental services and, or oral health educators, although such input, when it occurred, was welcomed and highly valued. Knowledge of how to handle dental emergencies was limited and only two schools operated toothbrushing schemes, although all expressed an interest in such programmes. Conclusion. This study identified a positive predisposition to promoting health in primary schools. The challenge for the dental team, however, is to promote and integrate oral health into mainstream health promotion activities in schools. The paper also makes recommendations for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188 - 192
Number of pages4
JournalCommunity Dental Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2009


  • children
  • deprivation
  • healthy eating
  • health promotion
  • inequalities
  • oral health
  • schools


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