It’s National Smile Month, so let’s talk a healthy mouth

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It’s National Smile Month, so let’s talk a healthy mouth

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It’s National Smile Month, so let’s talk a healthy mouth


It’s National Smile Month, so let’s talk a healthy mouth

With the vast majority of the UK population now expecting to remain dentate for life, the latest Smile Month campaign has captured the essence of what the dental profession needs to focus upon.

‘Teeth4Life' is the tagline for this year's campaign, a month-long focus highlighting the importance to patients of maintaining their oral health, organised annually by the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) for 35 years now. The campaign is running from 16 May until 16 June and will encourage the dental team to promote practices, and for patients to maintain regular dental visits.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the BDHF, anticipates a successful campaign...

The campaign is 35 years old. What has changed most in the nation's dental health?
It is quite difficult to remember now but, 35 years ago, one third of the population over the age of 16 had no teeth at all. This meant that the expectation by middle age was to be the proud owner of a set of NHS full dentures. Thankfully, with the advent of fluoride in toothpaste, and more advanced dental techniques being available, this tooth loss is a thing of the past but there is still much to do.

Have the dental products that you endorse made a difference in oral health?
They really are key. Fluoride in toothpaste has been responsible for nearly a 40% reduction in decay and advances in the early 1980s, with antibacterials and ‘total care' formulations helping to combat the other main preventable disease, gum disease. The advent of own brand products in the early 1990s helped to drive down the price of oral care products and make them more readily available to all.

Is the population now more educated about oral health?
Fortunately, the public now have an expectation of keeping their teeth for life but there are still significant numbers who only brush once a day and the majority of us probably do not brush for the required two minutes. Use of interdental brushes and floss has risen but those who use them are still in the minority. So, things have improved but there is still a long way to go. Most dentists recommend changing a toothbrush every three months but, as a nation, we only buy 1.3 toothbrushes per head per year – that means there are an awful lot of very tatty toothbrushes on bathroom shelves or, in many families, shared toothbrushes. It is a sad fact that only around half the population attend the dentist on a regular basis. We may be beginning to meet demand with reduction in waiting lists and greater availability of dentistry but this still leaves a huge unmet need.

What kind of activities are practices getting involved in?
There are huge variety of activities being undertaken by practices during National Smile Month.  These all help to raise the profile of the practice and better educate the public on the benefits of regular dental attendance and good oral health. Events can range from open days for existing and potential patients, talks to schools, scout and guide and women's groups, workplace and college displays through to outreach to shopping malls and oral hygiene displays in local retailers and supermarkets. Each year, we are amazed by the support from the dental team and the innovative ways they think of to promote good oral health. How many pictures of dentists (male) dressed as tooth fairies will we see from the local press this year?

Is this a ‘whole team' event? How can the dentist encourage others to get involved? 
In many cases, it is the team members who take the lead in organising events, bringing their dentists along with them! The events are a great opportunity within the  routine work of the dental practice to do something different and reach out to the local community.

What is the evidence of the efficacy of oscillating rotating toothbrushes? Have they made a difference to oral health?
Oscillating rotating toothbrushes for many have been the key to improving their oral health. The results reflected by Cochrane reviews perhaps underestimate their effectiveness at better removing plaque at only 13% where individual studies for the market leaders, Oral B, show up to 50% more plaque removal. The motivation offered by such additions as timers on the brush also cannot be overestimated in how they increase brushing time.

Do shock tactics work or is it about ‘softly softly ‘publicity?
There is probably a place for both aspects. Horror stories of children having teeth extracted undoubtedly have an impact but, equally, the slow drip feed of good oral health messages which the National Smile events have offered over the years is important in keeping oral health at the forefront of people's awareness.

You have three big sponsors – Oral-B, Wrigley's Orbit Complete and Listerine. What do they do?
The move from National Smile Week to National Smile Month to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the campaign in 2005 greatly increased the reach of the campaign into the retail sector and it is here that our corporate sponsors really come into their own.
Their influence and purchasing power with major retailers such as, Superdrug, Argos, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Tesco are invaluable in extending the visibility of the campaign to a new dimension. The financial support given to the campaign through their sponsorship also helps us grow and develop our media outreach in all sorts of ways and we owe a great debt of thanks to them. These commercial partnerships have truly allowed us to extend the impact of the campaign and reach immeasurably more people with our oral health messages.

And there are some giants from the high street involved?...
This year will see the biggest ever retail involvement. 2010 will see major participation by major supermarkets and pharmacy chains. The footfall in even one week through a major supermarket chain eclipses all the efforts we make with central media, and will complement the efforts of our members and supporters in making sure the key oral health messages of the campaign are seen by as many people as possible.


It's not too late to get involved!
If you are interested in organising an event for National Smile Month, you can find information, a copy of the 2010 guide, event ideas, downloadable  materials, sponsorship forms and a chance to register your activity at

In addition, you can enter your National Smile Month event into the annual Dental Awards ‘Best National Smile Month event' category. For more details, please contact the Foundation at

The National Dental Helpline (0845 063 1188) receives thousands of calls every year for advice on preventive care and general oral health issues. Visit

A word from the sponsors...

A brush with oral health excellence
P&G sell a range of trusted oral care products – including the Oral-B Professional Care power toothbrush, a range accredited by the British Dental Health Foundation. These are sold to practices in an exclusive added-value pack comprising an educational DVD and numerous free replacement brush heads to ensure patients use the right type of brush, the right way.

Click here to qualify for the £39.99 ORAL-B® TRIUMPH™5000 offer.

Awash with oral health care
Johnson & Johnson are the manufacturers of Listerine and they too work with the British Dental Health Foundation to improve oral health. Listerine is a platinum sponsor of National Smile Month 2010.

Something to chew over
Wrigley's Orbit Complete is also a platinum sponsor of the month-long campaign. Chewing sugarfree gum, like Orbit Complete, which contains xylitol helps to strengthen and protect teeth, as approved by the British Dental Health Foundation.

 Posted on : Tue 11th - May - 2010


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