What is National Smile Month?
National Smile Month is the UK’s largest and longest-running campaign to promote good oral health. Organised by health charity, the Oral Health Foundation (formally the British Dental Health Foundation), the month long campaign ultimately hopes to raise awareness of important health issues, making a positive difference to the oral health of millions of people.
Together, with thousands of individuals and organisations, National Smile Month highlights three key messages, all of which go a long way in helping develop and maintain a healthy mouth. These are:
- 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.
Who can take part?
National Smile Month is a campaign which everybody is encouraged to get involved with.
There are ways for a wide variety of groups, companies and individuals to get involved. Dental and health professionals, schools, pharmacies, community groups, colleges and workplaces – in fact anyone with an interest in good oral healthcare, help to deliver positive messages on oral health through thousands of events.
Why is it needed?
First conceived in 1977, National Smile Month 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.
Thankfully times have changed since then and there have been numerous changes in public attitudes to their oral health, but many problems still exist. Tooth decay is still far too common, especially in children where nearly a third (31 per cent) of five-year-olds and half (46 per cent) of eight-year-olds have visible signs of dental decay.
One in four adults admit that they don’t brush twice a day and more than a quarter only currently visit their dentist when they have a problem. Huge oral health disparities still exist depending on issues such as socio-economic status, age, where people live and even due to disability and ethnicity.
Almost all of dental health problems are preventable and this is what National Smile Month is trying to draw attention to and promote through positive messages and education.
When does National Smile Month Happen?
In 2016 National Smile Month is taking place between 16 May and 16 June.
This year’s marks the 40th Birthday of National Smile Month, a campaign which has become one of the highlights of the health calendar.
What happens during the campaign?
Throughout National Smile Month groups and individuals are encouraged to hold events which help to educate and spread positive oral health messages.
There are many innovative ways which everyone can get involved, including dental and health professionals offering school visits to deliver oral health education in the classroom, eye catching displays in dental practices and schools and healthy food checks to help people to understand exactly how their diet affects their oral health. Many more examples of ways which people can get involved can be found through the National Smile Month Events Hub.
Throughout the month people are also encouraged to carry out fundraising activities, these are a great way to ensure that everyone can get involved and contribute to spreading awareness of good oral health in a fun way. Over the years we have seen many exciting and imaginative ways people have chosen to fundraise, from holding local dances, duck races, quiz nights and even sponsored waxing the only limit to how people choose to fundraise in their own imagination. More information and ideas on at www.smilemonth.org/fundraising-events.
How can people follow the campaign?
Social media is an excellent way which people can follow, show their support and get involved in the campaign. People can get the latest updates and news on Twitter by following @SmileMonth and using #NSM16 and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NationalSmileMonth.
The Oral Health Foundation also run a number of social media initiatives which everyone can get involved in:
- #MySmileySelfie – By sharing smiley selfies on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram people have the opportunity to get involved and spread positive oral health messages, all while having fun.
- Nominate a Smile – National Smile Month is rewarding four lucky people who always bring a smile to those around them with special recognition.
More information can be found at www.smilemonth.org/competitions.
What are the important issues in oral health?
There are many big issues in oral health at the moment, the key need though is to get everyone to understand that almost all dental health diseases are entirely preventable.
People need to be more aware of the devastating effect sugar can have on their oral health and be conscious to how often they are consuming it. They need to recognise when there are ‘hidden sugars’ in supposedly healthy foods and take measures to prevent against their effects. There continues to be a lack of general knowledge about how lifestyle choices impact oral health
One of the most worrying issues is the state of children’s oral health in the UK, nearly a third (31 per cent) of five-year-olds and half (46 per cent) of eight-year-olds have visible signs of dental decay. This can be down to many reasons such as a poor diet or a lack of oral health education and needs to be addressed urgently.
A key issue that still remains, even though it has improved over the years, is that of the publics relationship with their dentist. Many people are still anxious about visiting their dentist and put off visiting them until something is wrong, which can mean that many problems go untreated until it is too late.
What does the campaign do to tackle them?
National Smile Month is committed to ultimately improving the UK’s oral health. We know that a healthy smile is a huge asset; not only can it benefit us socially and help us in other things such as our careers and relationships, but it also has many more practical benefits. Because of this, it only makes sense to give our oral health the best care possible.
Alongside promoting our three key messages, throughout the campaign we are drawing attention to the key issues which exist in oral health. The campaign achieves this by being a great opportunity to providing people with trustworthy and accurate education on the simple ways to look after their teeth, prevent problems and the consequences of not doing so.
By approaching a serious issue in a fun and engaging manner National Smile Month enables everyone to get involved in some way. It is the people who use the campaign as a springboard to spread positive messages through events and fundraising activities which really help to change the way people view their own oral health.
Who can I speak to?
Throughout National Smile Month there is the opportunity to interview some of the Oral Health Foundations leading representatives for more information on the campaign itself and well as information on oral health in general. Representatives include:
- Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation
- Janet Goodwin, President and chair of the Oral Health Foundation
- Ben Atkins, Clinical Director, Revive Dental Care, Oral Health Foundation Trustee
- Karen Coates, Dental Advisor, Oral Health Foundation
Where can I get more information and/or interviews?
If you would like any more information about National Smile Month or arrange any interviews with National Smile Month representatives, please contact Gavin Hawes at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01788 539 792 with a brief description of your request.
Is there a National Smile Month launch event?
Yes. National Smile Month Is holding its launch event in London on the 12 May (provisionally). To request and invitation to join the event please contact email@example.com.
Do you have images available??
The National Smile Month image gallery contains a collection of great photographs with the Smiley taken to support the campaign.
If you require any further supporting images, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of your request.
Can I be kept updated on oral health news and important updates within dentistry?
If you wish to be added to the Oral Health Foundation’s press and media distribution list for press releases, please email your request to email@example.com.