Youngsters in Derby City have been involved in a trailblazing project to improve dental health among primary school children.

The Smile 4 Life pilot, commissioned by Derby City Council’s public health department, collaborated directly with six city primary schools to help children brush up their teeth cleaning skills.

Under the scheme, experts from the oral health promotion team of Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust went into schools to deliver fun sessions on oral health – with the help of a friendly crocodile called Charlie.

Daniela Dunova from Pear Tree Infant School has a good go at cleaning Charlie the crocodile’s teeth, watched by classmates Martina Sandrova and (partly hidden) Etela Davorova.

The aim was to increase children’s exposure to fluoride by offering tooth brushing and fluoride varnish, and to evaluate its impact on childhood tooth decay. The outcomes have been highly successful, with children brushing regularly and having generally better oral health as a direct result of the project.

Councillor Martin Repton, Cabinet member for Integrated Health and Care at Derby City Council, said:

Involving schools and early years settings in establishing early, good oral health habits not only prevents children from suffering needless pain, but also saves public resources in the long-term by minimising treatment need. The Smile 4 Life scheme showed us we can stop tooth decay in its tracks.

A spokesperson for Derby City Council’s Public Health team said:

Tooth decay is the most common single reason why five- to nine-year-olds are admitted to hospital. We were delighted with the success of the Smile 4 Life scheme, which provided fluoride varnish to over 450 children in Derby. The evaluation showed a reduction in tooth decay, increased tooth cleanliness, and more children going to the dentist for their regular check-ups. Tooth decay is preventable and we are committed to continuing to improve the oral health of Derby’s children.

Madeleine Braithwaite, from the oral health promotion team of Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust, said:

It was very worthwhile and we developed some strong links with the schools for the future. Children’s teeth are particularly susceptible and there’s lots we can do to support families, through the schools, to help reduce tooth decay.

Part of the project involved giving children toothbrushes and toothpaste to take home and arranging dental check-ups to be carried out at school.