Children's understanding of and motivations for toothbrushing: a qualitative study

P. Gill, K Stewart, D Chetcuti, IG Chestnutt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To explore children’s understanding of why they do or do not brush their teeth and their motivations for toothbrushing.

Methods: Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 66 children aged 6–7 years and 10–11 years in four purposively selected primary schools in Cardiff, UK. Data were analysed using a constructive process of Thematic Content Analysis and techniques of open and selective coding.

Results: While a routine activity, toothbrushing was prompted rather than monitored by parents and easily fell by the wayside because of tiredness, excitement or distraction. Rationalizations for toothbrushing were poorly formed in the children’s accounts and related to ‘doom scenarios’ such as teeth falling out, or to issues of personal grooming and cleanliness rather than caries prevention. Electric (powered) toothbrushes were popular and had engaged the children’s interest. Social and domestic circumstances, such as when children stayed with different parents at different times, impacted on toothbrushing routines.

Conclusion: This study has revealed information that is of value in directing oral health education messages, oral health promotion programmes and has identified issues that potentially affect compliance with toothbrushing that merit further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Dental Hygiene
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

Cite this