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In 2017 the National Oral Health Survey in Vanuatu reported that 70% of children aged between 5-7 years old had dental decay, 19% needed urgent treatment for pain and/or infection and 78% had bleeding gums indicative of poor oral hygiene.


From these key findings the Gudfala Tut Skul program was developed, Gudfala Tut meaning Healthy Teeth in Bislama, the common language used throughout Vanuatu.


The Gudfala Tut Skul program is a supervised toothbrushing program for Kindergarten and Grade 1 school children

in Vanuatu. The purpose of the program is to develop toothbrushing skills and greater awareness of the importance

of oral health in children and families; instilling life-long oral hygiene habits during the early formative years and

contributing to improvement in overall oral health.


The program is a partnership between Medical Sailing Ministries (MSM Inc.), The Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu,

Vanuatu Ministry of Health, and Dentalife Australia Pty Ltd.


Dentalife collaborated to develop a toothpaste for the program that allowed the local communities to get involved

with locally sourced raw materials and in the manufacturing of the toothpaste. The toothpaste was based on

coconut oil that was readily available in Vanuatu as a local product. The formula is mixed in a standard kitchen

food mixer which empowers the local communities to safely prepare the toothpaste to consistent standards.


The paste needed to be bright in colour to attract the children and create excitement for them to partake in

the program.


Sustainability was another important requirement as the formula needed to be manufactured in reusable bottles to reduce impact on the environment whilst still maintaining infection control standards.  The paste consistency and reusable bottles allows the teacher to apply toothpaste to a number of student toothbrushes quickly and efficiently, whilst avoiding contact with the toothbrush bristles, meeting infection control protocols.


It is hoped in the future with more trials the calcium carbonate in the paste may be able to be sourced from shore harvested dead coral that can be located from the local





















By August 2020, the Gudfala Tut Skul Program had been implemented in 14 urban, 1 semi-urban and 2 rural schools covering 1,265 Kindergarten children (49 classes) and 947 Grade 1 children (26 classes). The target for 2021 is presently 38 schools and to put these numbers into perspective, the total population of Vanuatu is around 380,000. Currently MSM, PCV Health and MOH are preparing a phased plan to cover 40 urban and 80 rural schools Vanuatu








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