A healthy smile. It’s one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Not only is it a sign of good physical wellbeing, a smile can also inspire confidence, helping us in our social life, relationships and careers. Because of its influence on our day-to-day lives, it makes sense to give our oral health the very best care possible.
That’s exactly what National Smile Month is all about. The nationwide campaign promotes the value of a healthy smile and communicates the importance of achieving good oral health. During the month, we’ll be reaching out to millions of people and targeting some of the most at-need groups in the UK.
The goal is to reduce oral disease and give everybody the healthy smile they deserve. National Smile Month takes place between 13 May and 13 June. Throughout the campaign, we are joining up with Philips to promote the message of #habits4life. This is such an important concept. Adopting as few as three simple habits can help us lead a healthier and happier life.
The first of these is brushing our teeth last thing at night and at one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste. Keeping a clean set of teeth and gums reduces the risk of tooth decay and gums disease. It also helps prevent other conditions like heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
Next up is cutting down on the amount of sugar we have and how often we have it. Sugar is cause of tooth decay and there is simply far too much of it in most of our diets. It’s the reason why 40,000 children in England had rotten teeth removed from hospital last year and it continues to be a highly dangerous burden on our quality of life.
Our final focus is on the importance of dental visits. It is a common flaw that we only see our dentist when something goes wrong. By then it is too late. Attending regularly dental visits give our mouth a much-needed MOT and helps stop problems in their tracks, before they can go on to become something far more serious.
These three steps are all highly achievable and can help transform the health of our mouth.
During National Smile Month, we’ll be communicating these messages and other information about having and maintaining a good oral health. We’re delighted to receive support from thousands of passionate supporters and volunteers, as well as some of the UK’s most wellknown household brands. As a charity, having the support from the likes of GSK, Oral-B and Wrigley gives us a larger platform for us to fulfil our goals and help so many people who are struggling with oral diseases.
Brushing our teeth twice-a-day with a fluoride toothpaste is a key aspect of any oral health routine. Despite this, data suggests that as many as one in three British adults don’t do this regularly. This is a deeply concerning statistic and a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed.
Without twice daily brushing, the risk of oral health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease are significantly higher. We also now know that along with these problems can come a host of general health problems. Gum disease for example has been linked to general health conditions such as diabetes, strokes, heart disease and dementia – to name a few.
Evidence that suggests having a healthy mouth can help improve our general health and wellbeing is mounting all the time. It takes a relatively small amount of time to look after our oral health, but the benefits are clear for all to see.
If you still aren’t convinced, it’s worth remembering that there are also scientific studies that suggest the number of teeth we have is strongly linked to how long we will live. Considering that the leading cause of tooth loss in the United Kingdom is gum disease, which is preventable, there really isn’t any reason why we cannot keep our teeth for life.
National Smile Month encourages us to remember the importance of brushing, for our body as much as our teeth. We hope to again see members of the dental profession taking time our to go into public areas to engage young children and adults alike on the importance of healthy teeth and brushing twice daily.
Instilling these values and making sure children, as well as adults, understand why their toothbrush is an important tool is more likely to create a future where Brits are far more
proactive with their oral health.
In the British press, oral health tends to make headlines for the wrong reasons. One example that is a cause for great concern is the statistics released from Public Health England that revealed that 105 children-a-day are having rotten teeth extracted in hospital under general anaesthetic.
These figures are heart-breaking to see. It means tens of thousands of children each year are going through the stress and trauma of going into hospital to have invasive and unnecessary surgery. Having too much sugar and consuming it too often is the main cause of this.
We mustn’t forget that sugar consumption is also fuelling rising rates of childhood obesity and diabetes. These are serious health conditions that can take their toll on a person’s quality of life, whether that’s at a young age or later in life.
It goes without saying that our diet – what we eat and drink on a daily basis – has a huge influence on our oral health.
During National Smile Month, we are eager to see oral health in the UK make the news for all the right reasons. We rejoice at the sight of councils and local authorities who actively seek to address the issue of childhood tooth decay by launching programmes and initiatives that
really help people in the communities.
Going forward we would like to see more being done by the government to regulate the obscene quantity of sugar that can be found in popular products on supermarket shelves. We also believe that tighter standards must be enforced for the advertising and marketing for such products. Many parents across the country are being misled to believe the products they are giving to their children are healthier than they appear.
While daily toothbrushing is an absolutely essential part of a good oral health routine, we must remember that it isn’t a magic wand. Sugar is the villain posing the biggest threat to the health of children across the nation and National Smile Month hopes to make a significant impact in putting the shackles on it.
The vast majority of oral health problems we could encounter can be prevented by taking
the right measures regularly. Visiting our dental team may not sound like it fits into this racket, but regular appointments are also key. Despite this, there is certainly an issue in the UK, with the number of us who do see our dental team as often as they recommend.
Already we have seen statistics released that show a drop in the number of British adults who are visiting the dentist and for many reasons this is a concern. Mouth cancer cases are sadly on the rise and survival is greatly dependant on early detection, which dentists are trained to do. Going to the local dental surgery also provides an opportunity to seek advice specific to our needs to address, or better yet prevent, any oral health issues we may encounter.
Taking that into consideration, it’s easy to understand why promoting regular visits to the dentist is an integral part of National Smile Month. Dental teams are the experts who are best placed to give us the tools and knowledge we need to develop the best oral health possible. We cannot undervalue the importance of dental appointments and National Smile Month aims to provide a timely reminder of why this is the case.
Sharing a smile
It is with great excitement that we look forward to the beginning of National Smile Month. We believe it is a great opportunity for all of us to come together and learn more about our oral health.
The campaign isn’t just about stressing the importance of a healthy mouth. It is also about having fun by creating and sharing smiles while we do it. This is exactly why we are pleased to see the return of the Smiley.
More than half a million of us have used them over the last few years and they continue help engage others in the value of good oral health. Each of our three key messages for achieving great oral health are on the back of every Smiley, meaning that everyone that uses one will gain key information about how to develop a great smile. We have also found them to be a perfect photo opportunity – so they are highly effective for communicating oral health messages to audiences across social media and other digital platforms.
During the campaign, take a moment to visit our website www.smilemonth.org. It’s a great way for all of us to learn something new about our oral health and developing a healthy smile. We’ll also be uploading lots of great content to social media so please search for National Smile Month there too. Our oral health shouldn’t be overlooked. National Smile Month is a chance to give our smile the attention it deserves.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation