National Smile Month – everyone deserves a healthy smile
With the return of National Smile Month, Nigel Carter introduces the messages that are being pushed and how everyone can get involved.
Between 16 May – 16 June, National Smile Month returns again.
It first launched in 1977 as a week-long scheme. Back then, preventative dentistry wasn’t very typical; fast forward 40 years later, it’s now a key subject for every dental professional.
Led by the Oral Health Foundation, it is the largest oral health campaign in the UK.
Each year the team dedicates its time to improving the health of millions of people living in the UK. They raise awareness of oral health issues and educate people on how to look after their smiles.
We were fortunate to speak to Dr Nigel Carter about National Smile Month and the Oral Health Foundation’s plans.
Jeylan Ramis: What messages are you pushing this National Smile Month?
Nigel Carter: This year for National Smile Month we will be looking closely at health inequalities.
With a different focus each month, we will address a series of important oral health issues.
The campaign will be taking place between 16 May – 16 June using the theme ‘Everyone deserves a healthy smile’.
During these five weeks, we will be reaching out to millions of people and targeting some of the most at-need groups in the UK.
We will support face-to-face community events and online activities, creating a range of downloadable digital assets, and reaching out to the press as part of an exciting drive to give oral health more positive attention in the media.
National Smile Month will also be an opportunity for us to use your charitable donations to support those most in need through our dental helpline and dental pack distribution.
The first week’s theme is ‘The life of a smile’, where we will look at all the different changes the mouth goes through from cradle to grave.
We want to spend time advising patients on how to look after their smile throughout all stages of life, while highlighting the different things their mouth needs as they get older.
Each day of the week we will focus on one life stage using shareable content for each topic, including digital assets across social media, posters, leaflets, guides, and much more.
In week two, we will be focusing on the importance of the dental team and the value of a healthy mouth.
Throughout the week, we will highlight the different roles of the dental team and the important work they each do to help give patients a healthy smile.
We will also champion regular dental visits to reinforce the message that they can stop many problems in their tracks, and show people that a healthy smile is affordable.
We have been talking to different dental healthcare professionals to learn more about their role. This is to show the public that dentistry involves much more than a visit to the dentist and that the dental team is made up of lots of varied people.
In the third week we will focus on nutrition.
Inequalities impact nutrition at all ages and a healthy balanced diet is essential for good oral health.
We want to urge patients to make healthy swaps, cut down on their sugar intake, and feel empowered to take control over their oral health, promoting a balanced diet.
We also want to pay particular attention to the way in which eating disorders can affect oral health and have been fortunate to be able to talk to people with lived experience of anorexia and bulimia about how their eating disorders affected their oral health.
In the fourth week, we will look at oral health around the UK. Where you live has a direct impact on oral health, whether due to water fluoridation, family income or NHS dental access.
We fully support UK-wide water fluoridation at the Oral Health Foundation. During week four, we want to raise awareness about the benefits of fluoride and encourage people to write to their local MP to adopt water fluoridation in the local area.
As more people struggle with access to dental care we also want to raise awareness of all the things they can do at home to manage and even improve their oral health.
You could also help connect with patients outside your practice by doing a live online Q&A to address their oral health questions.
During the fifth and final week of National Smile Month, we’re looking at how the mouth, mind and body are all connected by raising awareness of the links between the mouth and the rest of the body.
We will be paying close attention to the connection between the mouth and the mind, as it is one which many are not aware of.
Patients with poor oral health can develop poor self-esteem as a result and vice versa.
Motivation or lack thereof can be detrimental to maintaining an oral health routine and eating disorders can have a drastic impact on the health of a patient’s teeth.
We will also look at how the mouth is linked to the rest of the body through conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
During the fifth week of Smile Month we will have our famous Brushathon, and encourage everyone to get involved on 15 June.
Jeylan Ramis: Speaking of the Brushathon, what other activities can people take part in, and how can they get involved?
Nigel Carter: Many dental professionals support National Smile Month by visiting schools, workplaces, and care homes.
We would encourage any dental practice to use the weeks of National Smile Month to visit people of different ages and tailor advice, workshops, and Q&A sessions to meet their needs and challenges.
We have lots of fun activities for the public too, including writing letters to the tooth fairy, craft projects, competitions to win oral health supplies for the whole family, as well as our ‘nominate a smile’ competition.
This competition gives people the chance to show their recognition for someone who has dedicated themselves to their community. It has been a favourite for years now, and we have heard some really heart-warming stories, especially throughout the pandemic.
We’d love for dental practices to get involved with these activities and promote them to their patients and staff.
You can also help us by sharing resources that help patients understand what each member of the dental team does.
We have also produced different infographics and other resources to help with signposting. Additionally, we will be offering advice through simple downloads with bite-size advice for people and professionals about oral health and how it is linked to other health conditions, such as diabetes.
You can also use this part of the campaign to help educate patients about different oral health products and give them trusted advice. We offer impartial information about oral health products through our accreditation process.
Because this year one of our themes is oral health around the UK we want to hear what your practice is doing for your patients and your community. Then, we can show people that there are lots of positive things happening around the UK in oral health.
Tag @smilemonth on social media or use #smilemonth to show us what you’re doing to raise awareness. We will share as many as we can.
I’d also recommend that anyone wanting to get the latest information about National Smile Month follows us on social media. That is where we will be sharing the most up to date information.
Jeylan Ramis: Reflecting on previous National Smile Month, what impact do you hope to have and what’s your hope for this year?
Nigel Carter: Last year we did lots of digital activity, including dozens of interviews and press contact and were pleased with the way these were received by both the profession and the public.
This year we have high hopes for National Smile Month for a few reasons.
We made the decision to go towards themes and specific activities for each week to give smile month a fresh focus whilst still sending out the core messages of good oral health.
We hope that this year’s activity will show both the profession and the public that everyone deserves a healthy smile, and that a healthy smile is achievable.
Make sure to also order National Smile Month posters from www.dentalhealthshop.org.
You can download resources for National Smile Month from their website or follow @smilemonth on twitter and Facebook and @oralhealthfoundation on Instagram and LinkedIn to keep an eye out for exciting activities.
National Smile Month is sponsored by Align UK, Oral B, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, and the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program.
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