Today, the Oral Health Foundation continues to be an independent charity that aims to improve the oral health of the public by providing free and impartial dental advice, by running educational campaigns and by informing and influencing the public, profession and government on issues such as mouth cancer awareness and fluoridation.

We are proud that the values of our charity remain exactly the same as when we were first established more than 45 years' ago.

This is a short summary of how the Oral Health Foundation began, what led us to being formed and some of the challenges that we faced at that time. 


On 15 May 1970, in the Café Royal, London, twelve leading members of the dental profession and industry met for the first time to discuss the birth of a new organisation. Led by two prominent and far-sighted members of the dental trade – John M Davis and Peter de Trey - the group gathered to debate a paper produced by the British Dental Trade Association (BDTA).

Titled ‘The Extension of Advanced Dentistry’, the paper proposed the creation of a new independent organisation which sought to radically change the image of dentistry, raise professional standards and seek to educate the public to improve dental health.

A few months later, on 9 July 1970, at the Berners Hotel in London, 23 dental surgeons, one dental assistant and six members of the dental trade began the challenging process of forming an organisation which would be known as the British Dental Health Foundation (later transforming into the Oral Health Foundation).

Their first step was to elect Jack E Manning, a wonderfully enthusiastic dentist and periodontist, to set-up and chair a formation committee. Amongst his first tasks was to convince professional colleagues, many of whom were sceptical. Formal meeting minutes from the time noted that ‘Not all dentists agree with the need to educate the public to require a better standard of dentistry’.

Just over a year after the first meeting in May 1970, the formation committee published their ideas for the British Dental Health Foundation and invited colleagues to debate the proposals at a meeting on 21 May at the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

At the time Jack Manning said: “For the past 12 months, I have led a small formation committee to build the skeleton of an organisation that could help to create the most profound changes in the United Kingdom dental health climate.”

The proposals were endorsed by the 60 or so people attending the meeting. The formation committee started preparations, in earnest, to launch the new organisation in which they hoped all could participate.

Based out of Jack E Manning’s London West End Dental Practice, on 14 October 1971, ‘The Association for the Preservation of Dental Health Limited’ was incorporated, operating under the name of British Dental Health Foundation. At the time, it had proved impossible to register the name British Dental Health Foundation and it wasn’t until 30 October 1990 that the name was changed formally. 

Despite a lack of public support from the Minister of Health and a modest budget of £15,000, including a vital one-off financial contribution of £3,000 from the BDTA, the British Dental Health Foundation set off on its mission to improve dental health. It held its first formal meeting on 26 October 1971 at the Royal Society of Medicine and a team of 18 Council members were put in place during its first year.

Jack E Manning was voted the charity’s first Chair.  In one of his first speeches he outlined the challenges ahead, saying: “We must offer a new impact – a new approach – to the problem of getting our ideas over, using every avenue available, psychological, patient motivation, market research, human behaviour or pattern, all must be used to break the back of this communication problem.

“A new willingness is required to join with others who never had the cosy, dignified approach to dental health that had gone before. This, I know, will probably make for a rough ride, but done with goodwill, co-operation and understanding, will be exciting, challenging, and I sincerely hope, exhilarating to those who take part.”

Over the next forty years, the charity has been at the forefront of the concept of preventive dentistry and remains dedicated to its founding fathers’ wish to see the preventive message of 'Teeth are for Life' is spread as widely as possible, with the aim of improving everybody’s overall health.

On Monday 4 April 2016, the British Dental Health Foundation changed its name to become the Oral Health Foundation. The rebrand reflected the significantly broader reach and influence the charity had achieved globally since its formation. The change also echoed the charity’s ambitions and desire provide oral health information, education and support on people throughout the world.

Another highly influential factor in the charity becoming the Oral Health Foundation was the shift in terminology which took place over many decades from ‘dental health’ to ‘oral health’. It was the recognition that the health of the mouth is more inclusive and extended far beyond that of the teeth.


1971 The Association for the Preservation of Dental Health Limited incorporated on 14 October 1971 operating as the British Dental Health Foundation.
First formal meeting of the charity held on 26 October 1971.
Jack E Manning appointed first Chair.
1972 The British Dental Health Foundation launches its first campaign “The Mouth – Who Cares” on 14 June 1972.
The British Dental Health Foundation holds its first Annual General Meeting on 13 December 1972.
1976 The British Dental Health Foundation establishes Regional Branches in the North, Midlands, and South West. First regional meetings are held in Leeds in January 1976; Birmingham in September 1976; and the Western Branch on 25 November.
1977 The ‘Smile 77’ project was introduced by Pam Ayres in Birmingham and repeated in 1978. The project became the forerunner for National Smile Month.
 The British Dental Health Foundation’s Scotland Branch established.
The British Dental Health Foundation publishes its first patient information leaflets called ‘Information Gum Disease’ and ‘Information Crowns’.
1978 North West Branch established March in 1978 and a London Branch formed on 30 November 1978.
1979 National Smile Week held for the first time.
1983 British Dental Health Foundation membership exceeds 1,000.
1985 Over 30,000 members of public contact the British Dental Health Foundation.
British Dental Health Foundation annual income reaches £100,000 for the first time.
1986 The first ‘Smile of the Year’ competition held.
1989 The British Dental Health Foundation moves from Milton Keynes to Rugby, Warwickshire.
1990 Name officially changes to British Dental Health Foundation on 30 October 1990 from The Association for the Preservation of Dental Health Limited.

Product Accreditation is launched on 15 October 1991, at Roof Gardens, Kensington. The first accredited products were:

  • Anti-plaque Formula Toothpaste – Boots
  • Total Care Formula Toothpaste – Boots
  • Mentadent P Toothpaste – Elida Gibbs
  • Signal Toothpaste – Elida Gibbs
The first British Dental Health Foundation Dental Awards were held.
British Dental Health Foundation introduces range of ‘Tell Me About’ leaflets.
1995 British Dental Health Foundation Accreditation programme reaches 100 dental products.
1996 British Dental Health Foundation celebrates its 25th Anniversary.
1997 Dental Helpline opened on 2 June 1997.
Sally Goss becomes the first female Chair.
Former Chair, Dr Nigel Carter, appointed Chief Executive.
2000  British Dental Health Foundation adopts a new constitution and is governed by a Board of Trustees.
Sally Goss becomes last Chair and first President of the charity on 17 February 2000.
2001 The British Dental Health Foundation moves to its new headquarters in Smile House, Rugby.
2002 International Dental Health Foundation formed to be the charity’s presence for global activities.
2003 British Dental Health Foundation takes responsibility for promoting Mouth Cancer Action.
2008 National Smile Month campaign is run overseas (USA) for the first time.
British Dental Health Foundation accredits its 500th product on 12 November 2008.
2009 British Dental Health Foundation reaches £1 million in annual income for the first time.
2011 British Dental Health Foundation celebrates its 40th birthday on 14 October 2011.
Product Accreditation celebrates its 20th anniversary.
2012 In October 2012, the British Dental Health Foundation became a member of the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe.
2013 Dental Buddy school programme launched on 3 April 2013.
2014 Taking place throughout June 2014, National Smile Month was held in the United Arab Emirates for the first time. 
2016 British Dental Health Foundation becomes Oral Health Foundation on April 4, 2016.
National Smile Month celebrates its 40th birthday on 16 May 2016.
2017 The Dental Helpline marks 20 years of providing public advice.
Elizabeth Kay becomes the charity’s latest president on 6 December 2017.