10 May 2019

Between 13 May and 13 June, National Smile Month will champion the importance of good oral health. The charity campaign looks to promote the value of a healthy smile while sharing positive messages around toothbrushing, a healthy diet and visiting the dentist. To understand more about National Smile Month and how you can get involved, we sit down with the Oral Health Foundation’s Chief Executive, Dr Nigel Carter OBE.

Q: Thanks for joining us Nigel, we know you must be busy preparing for National Smile Month. How are preparations going and what should people expect for this year’s campaign?

Firstly, I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about what is always a special time of year for our charity. I am as excited as I am passionate about what the campaign stands for and this year will be no different. Preparations are going well. This year, we are hoping the campaign will reach more people than ever before with information, advice and support for their oral health. Our team are working hard behind the scenes to make sure that is the case.

This year for National Smile Month, we are working alongside Philips to focus on #Habits4life. It’s a really simple concept but so important for developing and maintaining good oral health. The three habits we are focusing on are; regular dental visits; a low-in-sugar diet; and twice-daily toothbrushing.  Because the health of our mouth has a direct correlation with our overall body health, adopting these habits can have a real impact on our quality of life. Stay tuned for more details.

During National Smile Month, you can also expect lots of Smiley selfies, new and exciting competitions and some amazing stories from around the UK of people who have made a big impact on someone’s life as part of our Nominate a Smile competition.

Q: That all sounds very exciting indeed. For those who might not have heard of National Smile Month before can you just explain what the month is all about?

Yes of course. National Smile Week, the forerunner for National Smile Month, was first held in 1976 and its core message has always been simple – that we all need to look after our oral health. At the time, tooth decay was so extreme that it was quite common for adults to have all their teeth removed. There was an urgent need for a public campaign which promoted preventive dentistry – and the message that tooth loss is not inevitable.    

Our key messages build on the #Habits4life concept. We are promoting the importance of brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cutting down how much and how often we have sugary foods and drinks and finally visiting the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.

The campaign relies on the actions of thousands of supporters and volunteers. During the month, we are joined by dental practices, hospitals, pharmacies, retailers, workplaces and schools. All of these groups come together to help their local communities achieve better oral health.

If you are passionate about raising awareness about the importance of good oral health, please help us share information and engage others about how valuable a smile really is.

Q: So now everyone knows what National Smile Month is all about, how can they get involved?

There are so many things you can do to support National Smile Month. Whether you are looking to get involved as an individual or a group, we have lots of ideas for activities and events that you can do.

The easiest way to get involved is to get your hands on some of our Smileys. They are a great way to promote National Smile Month and basic oral health messages. Smileys a simple and fun way to quickly get others thinking about their oral health. They are also a perfect photo opportunity so perfect for you to show your support by uploading them onto social media, alongside an oral health tip.

Social media is a really effective way you can support National Smile Month. With every like or share, information has the potential to go viral and reach millions. We ask that you visit the national Smile Month Facebook page (‘National Smile Month’) and Twitter page (@smilemonth) and help us by sharing, liking or commenting on our posts.

The campaign’s website, www.smilemonth.org, has lots of great activity ideas. From Smileathons and Two Minute Challenges, to dazzling displays and toothbrush exchanges – there’s something for everyone.

For the fitness enthusiasts and those that love a challenge, we would also love you to use National Smile Month as an opportunity to take on a personal challenge and fundraise for us. Online, we have a list of fundraising events that are happening all over the UK during National Smile Month. Simple sign up, create your fundraising page and start raising money for a great cause.

Finally, this year we have three amazing competitions. The winners all receive fantastic prizes, but more importantly, by taking part you are helping to share messages that can help others learn about their oral health. 

Q: So what competitions are being run as part of this year’s National Smile Month?

This year, we have three competitions for primary school children right through to adults, so there really isn’t any excuse not to get involved. National Smile Month 2019 sees us teaming up with Buddies™ to run the ‘Share a Smile’ Competition. All you have to do is write a poem or draw a poster about oral health. There are lots of categories so plenty of chances to win. We’ll also share and publish our favourite entries.

We also see the return of Nominate a Smile, in which you can nominate loved ones who have gone above and beyond to put a smile on your face. Our final competition is #MySmileySelfie. Simply post a photo of yourself with one of our Smileys, along with the hashtag, to be in with a chance of winning a top prize.

For more information on all the competitions, including how to enter, you can head over to www.smilemonth.org.

Q: Nominate a Smile has now been running for coming up 4 years, can you pick out your favourite nominee from over the years?

Every year we are taken aback by some of the nominees we get who have gone above and beyond for a friend, co-worker or even a whole community. I think that somebody who sticks out is a young man called Luke Chapman. He was nominated back in 2016 for his charity work and infectious smile. At just 10 years old Luke found himself in and out of hospital as he suffered with a broad range of health problems including congenital heart problems. He had several open-heart surgeries and extended stays in hospital. Despite all he was going through he always had a smile on his face and a sense of humour. In 2015, along with his family and friends, he raised over £26,000 for “When You Wish Upon a Star”. I don’t know about you, but I think that is a pretty amazing achievement!

Q: If people were to only take one thing from this year’s National Smile Month what would you want it to be?

I think all of National Smile Month’s key messages are very important, but I suppose it would be that oral health is just as important as general health. Having a healthy smile has so many more benefits than simply looking nice. Our teeth have such an important role to play in our lives. They help us chew and digest food, they help us to talk and speak clearly and they also give our face its shape.

A smile also has other day-to-day benefits. It can give us greater confidence, as well as influence our social lives, careers and relationships.

Because of this, it only makes sense to give our oral health the best care possible.

National Smile Month is our chance to take a look at our oral health, learn more about why a healthy smile is so important and share tips on how to improve and maintain it.

Q: Thinking more widely about 2019 as a whole, what strides are you hoping will be made in oral health?

I think this year everyone was shocked by the statistics from Public Health England, showing that children in the UK have already exceeded the maximum recommended sugar intake for an 18-year-old by the time they reach their tenth birthday. I think children’s sugar consumption is something we really need to address this year and I think introducing a ‘Pudding Tax’ would be a good place to start.

Another area we need to address includes an effective roll-out of the HPV vaccination for schoolboys. This is set to start from September 2019 and will help protect boys from mouth, anal and penile cancer. We need to ensure the right information reaches parents so that take-up of the vaccination is high.

Three final issues we’ll be looking at will be to promote more water fluoridation programmes across the UK, improve awareness of mouth cancer, as well as to tackle the latest worrying trend of DIY and online orthodontics.  

Q: It’s been great hearing all about National Smile Month 2019 as well as your views on oral health in 2019 as a whole. Before we wrap up though, is there anything you’d like to add?

I would just like to say that if anybody is reading this and would like to get involved with this year’s campaign, or would like to find out more about it, then head over to www.smilemonth.org. If you would like to take the opportunity to fundraise for the Oral Health Foundation that would be much appreciated, and we would love to hear from you.

Without your support, the campaign simply would not be the same.

All the details on how to get in contact with us can be found on our website at www.dentalhealth.org/contactus.