BRIGHT for secondary schools

Can a dental health lesson and text messages help tackle tooth decay?

Illustration of a toothbrush surrounded by certificates and a picture of a child brushing their teeth.


Tooth decay is common among pupils in secondary schools: four out of 10 pupils have at least one decayed tooth. It can cause pupils to feel pain in their teeth, making eating and sleeping difficult and stopping them from attending school.


In the BRIGHT project, we investigated whether a school lesson and text messages twice a day to improve toothbrushing would help secondary pupils to prevent tooth decay.

A total of 4,680 pupils aged 11-14 years took part in the study, from 42 schools across the UK. The participants had a dental assessment at the start of the project and another one after around three years. We analysed if pupils said they brushed their teeth more frequently, had less plaque and were less likely to have tooth decay as a result of the intervention.

Lastly, we interviewed a sample of staff and pupils about what they thought of the lesson and the text messages.


Our findings are summarised below.

View our findings

We are grateful to the pupils and schools who helped with this project. We will use the results to help find better ways to help pupils keep their teeth healthy, particularly those pupils who need our help the most.

Policy links

From September 2021, teaching about dental health is compulsory for primary and secondary schools in England as part of the ‘health and prevention’ component of the statutory guidance on relationships, sex education and health education.

View the statutory guidance on RSE and health education

Lesson pack

The lesson pack used in the BRIGHT trial, including resources for teachers and pupils, has been endorsed by the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Association and is freely available from their website.

Find classroom resources


This study was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme. Project number 15/166/08: Interventions to Improve Oral Health in Deprived Young People.

The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

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