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Say cheese – it’s National Smile Month 2017! This year, the annual event is held for the 41st time since its inception in 1977. So just what is National Smile Month and how did it all start? Read on to learn more!
In 1977, the Oral Health Foundation (then the British Dental Health Foundation) aimed to address an increasingly critical problem of how to get people to look after their teeth in a time when only one in three people had their natural teeth. The result was the week-long ‘Smile 77’ project, which was created to break down communication barriers that previously existed between the dentist and their patients.
The project focussed on the concept of preventative dentistry – a dramatically reformed outlook on oral health care at the time but one which 40 years on is seen as standard practice. A highlight of the 1977 campaign was poet Pam Ayres writing ‘Oh, I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth’ for the event – a poem that would later be voted into the top 10 of a BBC poll to find the Nation’s 100 Favourite Poems.
After its early success, the name was changed to National Smile Month in 1979 and has remained unchanged ever since.
From the outset, National Smile Month received a fantastic reception, helped not only by media interest but also by the willingness of dentists all over the UK to participate and spread the message.
In 1984 the campaign peaked public and media interest with an enormous launch at the London Transport Museum. Under an ‘Eat Well and Stay Biting Fit’ theme, healthy food buses were sent out into the city to bring the art of sugar-free cooking to thousands of children – a message that is as important today as it was back then.
It was in the 1980’s that National Smile Month truly became a nationally recognised event, helping to establish its position as an important event on the annual health calendar.
While the rest of the UK was embracing the golden age of Brit Pop, dentists and healthcare professionals were embracing a very different message – look after your teeth. With an increasing amount of support and recognition for the campaign, the dental profession ensured that the message was spread into the heart of communities.
Year on year the campaign grew, resulting in millions of pounds worth of press coverage, as dental practices used it as a platform to bring oral health messages to the wider public.
The public became more aware of their own oral health under the ‘Show Your Teeth You Care!’ theme as they recognised the importance of eating the right foods, brushing your teeth and regular visits to the dentist all had in fighting tooth decay and gum disease – all of which remain at the heart of the campaign’s message through to the present day.
In 2016, National Smile Month celebrated its 40th year as the largest and longest-running oral health campaign in the world. Thousands of organisations took part; reaching more than 60 million people worldwide as the campaign became the focal point of the dental world.
The key messages of the campaign today are:
At Wickersley Dental & Implant Practice, we are dedicated to providing the best possible dental care possible in a friendly, calm environment. We focus on preventative dentistry, helping you to have a healthy and confident smile year in year out. To book an appointment now or enquire about becoming a member, call us on 01709 543043 or click here to book an appointment online.
Adapted from National Smile Month – History and Background