Children are being bullied at school for not brushing their teeth because their families cannot afford toothpaste amid the cost of living crisis, according to new research.
The findings revealed that one in three teachers have witnessed a child being bullied because of poor dental hygiene.
Teachers are being forced to step in and four in five teachers are now handing out toothbrushes and toothpaste to students as the cost of living crisis bites.
A survey of 260 secondary school teachers by hygiene poverty charity Beauty Banks and the British Dental Association (BDA) found that 83% of secondary teachers say they or their school has given students toothbrushes and toothpaste.
The research also revealed that 81% of teachers said there are children in their school who don’t have regular access to oral hygiene supplies, with 40% saying this leads to children being socially excluded.
One Lewisham pastoral leader surveyed said children are still wearing Covid masks to hide their mouths, while 25% of teachers said children miss school because of poor oral hygiene.
The findings come as teachers across the country began the first of seven strikes last week in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Some teachers have been forced to work second jobs in order to “keep eating” and pay for essentials during the cost of living crisis, with one in 10 believed to have taken on another role alongside teaching.
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The research revealed the extent of the impact of the cost of living crisis on schools, with half of teachers saying children had noticeable tooth decay, and 30% noting children in dental pain or suffering from halitosis.
BDA chair Eddie Crouch said: “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.”
Jo Jones, co-founder of Beauty Banks said: “We work with charities including food banks, family centres, domestic abuse centres, homeless shelters and universally - across the board - toothpaste is now our most requested item. Before the cost of living crisis, it wasn’t even in the top three.”
Tooth decay is prevalent in children aged three to 11 according to data from the UK’s leading oral health charity, Dental Wellness Trust. 38% of children surveyed had untreated tooth decay.
Last year 16,959 children aged five to nine were admitted to hospital to have a tooth out, up from 9,429 in 2020-21.
The cost of living crisis has seen energy bills soar across the country due to an increase in wholesale gas prices.
An increase in demand for gas across the whole world occurred after the coronavirus lockdowns in 2020, putting a strain on supplies.
Since then, the crisis has hit million of families across the UK.
Children are missing out on essential educational school trips due to the cost of living crisis, lack of funds and staffing issues.
Schools are also stepping in to help families struggling with washing their clothes and buying food as the cost of living continue to cripple millions across the country.