UK parents are being pushed to the brink as they try to get their kids to take dental hygiene seriously.

Research from Oral-B has shown that 70% of parents say ensuring their children regularly pick-up a toothbrush is the most stressful element of modern parenting.

On average, parents will spend nine minutes nagging their kids to brush their teeth and when the little ones finally get brushing, they only last an average of just 76 seconds, well short of the two minutes recommended by dentists. Despite frustrated parents’ best efforts, British kids are brushing their teeth on average just NINE times a week, skipping on at least 20 occasions every month.

The research has been discovered by Oral-B, in conjunction with their #strongteethstrongkids campaign, which is encouraging parents to take part in a #BedtimeBrushChallenge. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of oral health and support parents in the UK to ensure children have access to better oral health care from home, with tips from experts and parenting influencers.

The study found that 70% of parents admit that the flashpoint of brushing can cause tantrums. So, it is no surprise that 71% admit they sometimes give up and let teeth-brushing slide to avoid a major meltdown.

If their children were left to their own devices, only 22% of parents reckon that they would do any brushing at all*. This is despite the fact that the average British child consumes three fizzy drinks, three packs of sweets, and a staggering four chocolate bars every week, according to the research. A whopping 86% of British parents admit that their child eats too much sugar, which is one reason why 46% of kids have had a filling or a cavity.

Problems with brushing causes parents some social anxiety too, with 7% of parents admitting they are ashamed of the state of their kids’ teeth and 30% saying they constantly worry about their kids’ teeth.

“This research shows just how hard it can be for parents to encourage their kids to brush their teeth well every day. We’re on a mission to improve the oral health of kids in the UK by helping parents make brushing fun. We launched the #bedtimebrushchallenge to support parents in educating children from a young age about the importance of oral health whilst giving people the chance to win brushing bundles for the whole family. We believe that strong teeth make strong kids and we’re excited to see how many people take part in our challenge” Adam Parker, Northern Europe Marketing Manager, Oral-B.

The study found that only 18% of parents say they are proud of their own dental health, 15% admit to having bad teeth and 19% say they wish their own parents had forced them to brush more*. A staggering 96% of parents wish that dental hygiene was taught in school, perhaps as it might make enforcing an oral health routine at home easier*.

When it comes to routines, 62% of kids brush their teeth every morning, 58% every night, 55% use a good toothbrush and just 51% go to the dentist every six months*. Only a third use a fluoride-rich toothpaste and just a quarter manage to have any sugar-free days at all.

Stoke on Trent is the brushing capital of the UK, where kids brush 11 times a week – and for around 90 seconds, compared to Leicester where they only brush eight times a week and for 60 seconds.

Dr. Roksolana Mykhalus, founder of children’s dentistry practice Happy Kids Dental, said: 'We’ve seen first-hand just how poor oral health in children can be – and this research shows just what a struggle it can be to get kids to brush their teeth. Most of these problems could be avoided if children had a regular oral care routine at home, and ate a healthy, balanced diet. We always recommend that children should brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes (ideally with an electric toothbrush from aged 3 upwards), accompanied by a fluoride toothpaste. When kids have strong healthy teeth the difference in their general wellbeing is really noticeable, they tend to be much happier and more confident vs those with poor oral health.'

View Oral-B’s top tips to make brushing fun, alongside helpful information for parents on maintaining oral health for kids here:


  1. Pieces of fruit: 8
  2. Biscuits: 6
  3. Chocolate bars: 4
  4. Packets of sweets: 3
  5. Fizzy drinks: 3
  6. Pieces of cake: 3
  7. Smoothies: 2

Make brushing fun

  1. ROLE PLAY WITH A STORY: get creative and make up a story that puts brushing at the heart of the action! Maybe aliens have invaded planet teeth and the only way to save it is to defend it by brushing. Perhaps each tooth is a car that needs cleaning, or what if evil dragons have invaded the teeth kingdom and only brushing can fight them off?
  2. DOWNLOAD THE ORAL-B DISNEY MAGIC TIMER APP: get the free Disney Magic Timer App by Oral-B on your smartphone or tablet. Kids are encouraged to brush for a whole two minutes by their favourite Disney, Star Wars, and Pixar characters whilst earning stickers and exclusive virtual experiences.
  3. HAVE A BATHROOM DANCE PARTY: create a playlist of your kids’ favourite songs and turn brush time into a brushing dance party that happens twice a day. Pick any song and brush away as it plays for two minutes, everyone can dance along!
  4. PICK YOUR OWN TOOTHBRUSH: Let your child pick their favourite toothbrush to use during brush time, Oral-B makes a variety of manual and power toothbrushes featuring favourite Disney characters. From Star Wars to Frozen to Cars, there’s a toothbrush to help your kid up their brushing game.
  5. TURN THE BATHROOM INTO THE DENTIST: use your imagination and turn the bathroom into a dentist where your kid has an appointment every morning and evening. Make them stay in the ‘waiting room’ until the dentist is ready to see them, then resume the role of the dentist, inspecting your kid’s teeth and overseeing the brushing process. Use this to turn brushing into a game, all whilst making kids excited for their next trip to the dentist!
  6. FAMILIES THAT BRUSH TOGETHER, SMILE TOGETHER: turn brushing time into a group activity that the whole family can do together. Make it into a ‘no-miss’ daily event that everyone (including parents and guardians!) looks forward to taking part in each day.
  7. BRUSHING SING ALONG: replace some of the words to a well known song that you can sing to whilst brushing. For example, ‘Let them glow’ sung to the Frozen tune.
  8. MAKE A REWARDS CHART: get crafty and design a home made star chart, every day your kid completes brushing - they earn a sticker for the chart. When they earn a certain amount of stickers they win a prize!
  9. ROLE PLAY WITH A FAVOURITE TOY: make sure your kids favourite cuddly toy or doll also has it’s own toothbrush and joins in on brush time every day. Using the toy will explain why it’s so important to look after teeth, and help show children what to do. When kids see their beloved toy having their teeth brushed, it will motivate them to do the same.
  10. PULL A SILLY FACE: bring a bit of joy to brush time by pulling silly faces when your kid finishes brushing each quadrant of the mouth. The silly faces only appear when they have brushed that area properly, and once they are done you can pull a silly face together and take a silly selfie to celebrate!

Follow and get involved in the campaign on Instagram via @oralb_uk and #strongteethstrongkids #BedtimeBrushChallenge