Get involved in National Smile Month 2024

National Smile Month 2024

The 48th annual National Smile Month is taking place between 13 May and 13 June 2024 – find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved.

National Smile Month was first launched by the Oral Health Foundation in 1977 to raise public awareness of oral health. In the words of Oral Health Foundation chief executive Nigel Carter: ‘The campaign aims to champion the benefits of a healthy smile and the value of developing and maintaining good oral health. Not just during the campaign, but for life.’

This year, the theme of National Smile Month is ‘love your smile’. The messaging of the campaign is focused on how patients can care for their smiles through consistent oral hygiene, food and drink choices, and using the right oral care products. It also explores how the smile is connected to confidence and wellbeing, and the diseases and conditions that can have a negative impact.

What problems does National Smile Month bring awareness to?

In honour of National Smile Month, the Oral Health Foundation conducted research into the five most common oral health conditions in the UK. Three quarters (76%) of respondents to its survey said they had experienced dental health problems in the past year. Sensitive teeth was the most common problem, reported by 35% of participants.

Nigel Carter said: ‘Living with sensitive teeth can be a silent struggle, often unseen but highly uncomfortable. Brushing with the correct pressure, using a toothpaste designed for sensitivity, and having a diet low in acidic food and drinks are the keys to managing sensitive teeth and reclaiming a pain-free smile.’

Bleeding gums was almost as prevalent at 34%. Miranda Steeples, president of the BSDHT, said: ‘Bleeding gums are a red flag, signalling inflammation due to plaque and debris left on the teeth. Don’t overlook this sign. Regular and thorough brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste twice a day, cleaning between the teeth, and a good mouthwash if needed, can help remove plaque and ward off gum disease.’

One quarter (24%) of those surveyed reported experiencing toothache within the past year. Dry mouth and bad breath were also common, at 17%. The Oral Health Foundation stressed that these oral health concerns also have wider implications for overall health. It said: ‘Oral health is a window to your general health, with gum disease sometimes associated with heart disease, diabetes, and other inflammatory conditions.’

Miranda Steeples concluded: ‘Oral health is a commitment that pays off in the long run. Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste keeps your teeth and gums healthy. Be mindful of your sugar intake, both in terms of quantity and frequency. Regular visits to your dental team are crucial for early detection and treatment of any potential issues. Remember, prevention is better than cure.’

‘Smiles are not just expressions – they’re statements of wellbeing’

The National Smile Month campaign kicked off with a launch event held at the Foundling Museum in London on 15 May. The venue was originally Britain’s first home for abandoned children, now housing an impressive museum collection. At the event, Nigel Carter highlighted a parallel between the inequality experienced by the foundlings and modern oral health inequalities.

He continued: ‘A simple smile can have a profound impact. We know that people who maintain good oral health tend to have better overall health. And the ripple effect extends beyond individuals – healthy smiles contribute to stronger communities and a happier society. So, as we embark on this month-long journey, let’s remember that our smiles are not just expressions – they’re statements of wellbeing.’

Ben Atkins, past president of the Oral Health Foundation, also spoke at the launch event. Discussing several key figures from Wrigley’s Oral Health Index, he emphasised the need for preventive oral care and the negative impact of poor oral health. A significant area of concern was mental health. One third of those surveyed for the index said oral health caused them stress or anxiety.

Community engagement is a huge part of the National Smile Month initiative. The Whittington Health Trust attended the launch event to discuss some of its recent outreach and education efforts. Programmes include supervised toothbrushing, fluoride varnishing and oral health training for early years staff. One recent toothbrushing event organised by the trust reached 900 local children. The trust described its vision as ‘to contribute to a generation of children that is free from dental disease.’

National Smile Month is backed by several big names in the dental industry. This year’s sponsors include Oral-B, Haleon, Boots, the Wrigley Oral Health Programme, EMS, Listerine and the BSDHT.

How to get involved

With National Smile Month drawing to a close on 13 June, there’s still time to get involved and make a difference. One easy way to show your support is to take a ‘smiley selfie’. The iconic Oral Health Foundation ‘smiley’ can be ordered from their website. All you need to do is take a selfie with the smiley and post it on your social media with the hashtags #mysmileyselfie and #smilemonth. The best three selfies will be chosen to win four tickets to local comedy shows.

As a dental professional, there are many ways that you can share your oral health knowledge with your local community this National Smile Month. The Oral Health Foundation’s Dental Buddy toolkit provides all of the resources needed to teach oral health education to children at home. Going into local schools to educate children and teachers can have a huge impact by reinforcing healthy oral hygiene habits.

However, directing teachers to the Dental Buddy resources can also help them to deliver their own oral health lessons without the input of a dental professional.

Setting up a National Smile Month display in your practice is another way to highlight the important messages behind the campaign. Posters and other assets are available to download from the Oral Health Foundation website. Putting up a display of these bright and eye catching designs spreads oral health education while also looking great. There are also digital versions which can be shared via social media or emails.

However you choose to mark National Smile Month, it’s a fantastic opportunity to draw attention to the oral health problems currently facing the UK and be part of the solution by raising awareness of preventive care.

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