New research shows that 83% of teachers in the United Kingdom provide students with toothbrushes and toothpaste.
The survey carried out by Beauty Banks, a hygiene poverty charity, also showed that 82% of teachers said there are children in their school who do not have regular access to toothpaste.
The impact of students not having access to basic oral care is huge. Half of the teachers surveyed said that children with oral hygiene issues isolate themselves, and one third have witnessed bullying from other students over poor oral hygiene.
Oral hygiene poverty also affects teachers. According to the report, 38% of teachers who witness poverty in the classroom said that they feel helpless, and 31% said that it affects their mental health.
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Need for toothbrushes and toothpaste donations has increased
Beauty Banks supports people across the UK who cannot afford to stay clean. Prior to the cost-of-living crisis, toothpaste was not in the top three of items requested by food banks and family centres. Now, it is their most requested item.
Co-founder Sali Hughes said: “Our teaching workforce spends a significant amount of time dealing with the impact of poverty on pupils, that they want to spend educating their classes.”
“Hygiene poverty causes not only social exclusion in children but in educational exclusion, too,” Hughes continued.
25% of teachers said that children miss school because of poor oral hygiene, while three quarters said children who do not have access to toothpaste and a tooth brush have discoloured teeth.
‘Our children face an epidemic of decay’
Eddie Crouch, British Dental Association Chair, said: “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.”
Crouch said that “while our children face an epidemic of decay, the government seems asleep at the wheel”.
Teachers have also been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. 22% told Beauty Banks that they struggle to afford hygiene basics such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, and deodorant and one in four said they get anxious when visiting the dentist because of treatment bills.