Council volunteers help tackle tooth decay

Volunteers working for Liverpool City Council have helped deliver a unique and innovative collaborative tooth decay prevention scheme.

The ‘Sugar Detectives’ programme gave Council staff the opportunity to use their volunteer days to deliver oral health awareness sessions in the Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF) groups over the summer.

There are a number of pieces of work happening across the city to tackle this issue and the Sugar Detectives training programme was developed to support the Council’s Save Kids from Sugar campaign using the five volunteer days that Liverpool City Council employees benefit from each year.

Volunteers received information on oral health statistics, guidance on oral health improvement and sugar content in foods and drinks and were equipped with the skills required for the 45-minute session. They were also provided with oral health packs to hand out to children including: a toothbrush, toothpaste, 2-minute timer and Save Kids from Sugar information leaflets and stickers.

A total of six staff delivered sessions, equating to over 70 volunteer hours. Fifteen HAF providers participated in the pilot and over 200 children received the training.

Data from the pre and post quiz suggests the session may have improved children’s knowledge. Feedback from providers indicated increased excitement for oral health, improved awareness of sugar content, changes in shopping habits for parents and a positive impact on toothbrushing habits.

For staff volunteers, benefits included: community engagement, increased learning and knowledge, skills development, a confidence boost and personal fulfilment with the experience offering a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Latest data suggests approximately 37.5% of children aged five in Liverpool have visible tooth decay. Tooth extraction is the most common hospital procedure for five to nine years olds at Alder Hey, with over 92% of extractions for under ten year olds being as a result of decay. The decay is largely preventable, if children reduce their sugar intake and brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste.

Professor Matthew Ashton, Director of Public Health said: “This is an innovative way of utilising staff volunteer time to deliver public health messages in a fun and engaging way.

“Not only does is provide staff with learning and development opportunities but it will also support to improve the oral health of our young people across Liverpool.”

Councillor Harry Doyle, Cabinet Member for Public Health, said: “Our staff go above and beyond every day and it is fantastic to see the way they supported this important Public Health initiative.

“We face a huge issue with poor dental health among many of our children and this has been a great way to use our own workforce to support the Save Kids from Sugar campaign.”

Council volunteer Joanne Gilbertson, who usually works at a Children’s Centre, said: “I have loved using my volunteer hours as a Sugar Detective.

“I have met some wonderful children and young people who are all keen to make a difference for themselves and their families.

“Having the opportunity to learn more about oral health, hidden sugars and reading the statistics for Liverpool has been eye opening.

“I have been able to take a lot from the training and delivery of the sessions and now impart this knowledge on the children and families who attend our sessions and with the wider community.”

More information about Save Kids from Sugar can be found at

Liverpool Waterfront