17th May is a day that many people in England are looking forward to this year as it marks the earliest date that ‘Step 3’ of the ‘Roadmap out of lockdown’ will be implemented in England. Provided that the conditions are met, indoor hospitality will be able to reopen and we will once again be allowed indoors with our friends and families, albeit observing the latest guidance on numbers. But May 17th also marks the start of National Smile Month which runs from May 17th to June 17th when the Oral Health Foundation will be raising awareness of important oral health issues and encouraging everyone to put a smile on their face – so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of smiling people on that day!
National Smile Month is a charity campaign which champions the benefits of good oral health and promotes the value of a healthy smile, and they want everyone to join them in making a positive difference to the oral health of the nation. With changes to the EYFS also highlighting the benefit of dental health in children, this is a great opportunity for you to promote dental hygiene and good oral health practices in your setting.
Maintaining a healthy smile should be one of the most natural things we can do, but many of us actually find it rather difficult. There have been a lot of improvements in oral health over the years – the days of tying your tooth to the door handle have long gone, thankfully(!) but there are still inequalities that need to be addressed and obstacles to overcome before there is equity in oral health across the nation. National Smile Month gives everyone a chance to reach out to their family, peers, work colleagues and local communities to spread the important oral health messages of the Foundation.
Some facts about oral health
- About 1 of 5 (20%) of children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth
- Children aged 5 to 19 years from low-income families are over twice as likely (25%) to have cavities, compared with children from higher-income households (11%)
- 39% of adults do not visit the dentist regularly and two-thirds have visible dental plaque
- 25% of adults do not brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- One-third of adults have tooth decay and one-third have never flossed or cleaned interdentally
- Three-quarters of adults have had a tooth extracted
- 60 million Brits do not have fluoridated water
What are the key messages to promote?
Looking at these statistics, there are some key messages for great oral health that the Oral Health Foundation want to promote over the month. Many of us may think we know them, but read on to see if you really do know the best way to look after your teeth, gums and keep your dazzling smile!
- Brush your teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and at one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste
- Use mouthwash and clean between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss every day
- Cut down on how much sugar you have, and how often you have it
Now ask yourself if you are doing them all on a regular, daily basis – if not, then there is still work to do. As early years practitioners, it is even more important that we are promoting good oral health in the children we look after because when good habits are started early, they are more likely to continue into adulthood, and with oral health, prevention is definitely better than cure!
How to get involved in National Smile Month
There are lots of ways to get involved and raise awareness in your setting. Here are some suggestions:
- Sign up to the week and pledge your support here
- Join the Great British Brushathon on Wednesday 3rd June at 9am when people from all around the country will take part in one giant communal brushing event. You can either video yourself brushing your teeth for 2 minutes prior to the event, or set up a live stream on the day
- Post a picture of your smile on social media
- Enter the Smiley Monster competition by creating a monster which is partially or wholly made out of oral health products such as toothbrushes, dental floss or mouth wash bottles – look on the website for some inspiration and remember that your monster needs a smile too!
- Write a poem about smiling. Take some inspiration from poet, Pam Ayres, who wrote “I wish I’d looked after me teeth” and write your own literary masterpiece
- Cleanse your cupboard! Try to swap sugary food and drinks for healthier alternatives for the whole month – think about drinks and snacks. It is recommended that children aged 4–6 should have no more than 19g of sugar per day which is 5 teaspoons so check the labels carefully. For adults, the figure is 30g or 7 teaspoons
- Join in a singalong by posting a video of you and the children singing a song with the word ‘smile’ in the title. How about “The Smile Song” or “Start the Day With a Smile” which are both specially written for early years and are available on YouTube? Or choose a pop or nursery song you already know
More details of all the challenges above are available on the official website as they would like people to post specific messages about oral health and use the hashtag #SmileMonth in their posts. If you don’t have social media accounts, you can email your videos to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will share them on their own site.
The Dental Buddy programme is a series of free, downloadable lessons aimed at home schooling or teaching children from 0–11 the importance of oral health and how to look after their mouth and teeth. There are specific lessons for early years as well as KS1 and KS2 including presentations, lesson plans, worksheets and reward charts. Children will learn the importance of brushing their teeth for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste; the role that sugar plays in our diet and what a balanced diet means; and why we all need to visit the dentist regularly. You can access all the resources here.