History and Background

Over the last four decades National Smile Month has grown to become one of the highlights of the dental calendar, throughout this time it has undergone some significant and exciting changes.

The passion and enthusiasm from everyone involved to make a difference by improving oral health has stayed strong throughout, as we prepare for National Smile Month 2018 we take a look at how this ground-breaking campaign has become what it is today.

It started with a smile!

Smile ‘77 to be precise. In 1977, the Oral Health Foundation (then the British Dental Health Foundation) aimed to address an increasingly critical problem of how to get people to look after their teeth in a time when only one in three people had their natural teeth.

Forerunner to National Smile Month, the week-long ‘Smile 77’ project was created to break down communication barriers that previously existed between the dentist and their patients.

The project focussed on the concept of preventative dentistry – a dramatically reformed outlook on oral healthcare at the time but one which 40 years on is seen as standard practice.

You may remember poet Pam Ayres writing ‘Oh, I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth’ for the event – a poem that would later be voted into the top 10 of a BBC poll to find the Nation’s 100 Favourite Poems.

Two years later the programme became known as National Smile Week.

The enormous 80’s

In the years since its inception National Smile Week grew rapidly with the help of dental professionals. Starting on a regional level and developing into a nationally focused campaign it made significant progress in bringing important oral health messages to the public throughout the 80’s.

In 1984 the campaign peaked public and media interest with an enormous launch at the London Transport Museum. Under an ‘Eat Well and Stay Biting Fit’ theme, healthy food buses were sent out into the city to bring the art of sugar-free cooking to thousands of children.

The 80’s really saw National Smile Month truly go national and well and truly established its position as an important event on the annual health calendar.

The 90’s showed you care

The 90’s was the era of Brit Pop, the Walkman, the Macarena and Friends but for National Smile Week it was the era that really showed us that the dental profession had fully embraced the campaign.

Year on year the campaign grew, resulting in millions of pounds worth of press coverage, as dental practices used it as a platform to bring oral health messages to the wider public.

The public became more aware of their own oral health under the ‘Show Your Teeth You Care!’ theme as they recognised the importance of eating the right foods, brushing your teeth and regular visits to the dentist all had in fighting tooth decay and gum disease.

A brand new era!

Due to its incredible popularity, on its 30th Birthday National Smile Week was no more as we started a new era as National Smile Month.

To bring their key messages to more people than ever the Oral Health Foundation arrived at three important points which they would replicate throughout every campaign:

  • Brush your teeth last thing at night and on at least one other occasion with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.

Bringing smiles around the world

With the campaign continuing to grow National Smile Month ran simultaneously in the UK and USA for the first time ever in 2009. Partnering with Oral Health America, the Oral Health Foundation brought their three key messages to more people than ever before.

The pilot for an international Smile Month was then created in Ireland the following year, and in 2014 reached the United Arab Emirates for the first time.

National Smile Month had truly gone global!

Raising a Smiley


Making its big debut in 2012 the introduction of the Smiley changed how people engaged with their oral health by allowing them to truly participate in National Smile Month.

Allowing everybody to share their smiley on social media brought fun, participation and importantly, key oral health messages to more people than ever. The Smiley allowed everybody to become the face of National Smile Month.

And here we are!

In 2016, National Smile Month celebrated its 40th year as the largest and longest-running oral health campaign in the world. Thousands of organisations took part; reaching more than 60 million people worldwide as the campaign became the focal point of the dental world.

Our passion and enthusiasm for bringing important oral health messages to all us as strong as ever and everybody has embraced it alongside us.

We would like to thank all of those people crucial in making National Smile Month the success it has been so far. The saying is ‘life starts at 40′ and we’re hoping this is particularly true of National Smile Month. Here’s to many more wonderful campaigns to come.