It’s National Smile Month: What Are You Doing to Put a Smile on Your Face?

Published:May 23rd, 2012

National smile month runs from 20 May to 20 June this year, and it’s the nation’s oral health campaign. It’s organised by the British Dental Health Foundation and aims to promote better dental health in the UK. The three main aims of the campaign are to make sure we all brush our teeth for at least 2 minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, that we cut down on the amount of sugary foods and drinks, and that we all visit the dentist regularly.

The month-long campaign involves thousands of dental health events held across the UK, all of which aim to promote the importance of having good oral health. Over the past 30 years the nation’s oral health has improved considerably.

  • In 1978 just 44% of adults in England and 39% of adults in Wales attended the dentist regularly. Now that figure has increased to 61% in England, 60% in Northern Ireland, and 69% in Wales and Scotland.
  • People are also keeping their teeth for longer, as in 2009 the percentage of the population in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with no natural teeth was just 6%, whereas in 1978 37% of the population in Wales had no natural teeth.
  • The percentage of people with more than 21 natural teeth has increased to 86% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but in 1978 just 68% of the population in Northern Ireland could make this claim.
  • Children’s dental health has improved considerably over this time, as in 2009 66% of children aged 12 had no visible signs of dental decay whereas in 1973 this percentage was less than 10%. Only 31% of five-year-olds have any visible sign of dental decay.
  • Most of the adult population (71%) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has no visible signs of dental decay on the surfaces of their teeth.
  • It’s also surprising to learn that UK residents are the second most likely in Europe to visit the dentist for a checkup. Apparently 79% of adults in the Netherlands visit the dentist regularly, but the figure in the UK is a very respectable 72%, according to a recent survey.

These figures are pretty impressive, and show that while we may not have the whitest and straightest teeth in the world, lots of us are concerned about having a healthy mouth.

However there is no room for complacency, as many 10% of people aren’t registered with the dentist, and one third only brush their teeth once a day, or even less. This is not only bad news for their teeth but also for their general health, as poor dental health has been linked to a number of serious diseases including diabetes and heart disease. Regular checkups are also important as your dentist will be looking for any signs of mouth cancer, a condition which can easily become life-threatening if early signs aren’t picked up soon enough.

So what are you going to be doing to help improve your oral health this month? The British Dental Health Foundation suggests making a few simple changes to improve your smile. These include paying more attention to your diet, and cutting down on sugary foods and drinks, and if you smoke then they suggest you quit or at least cut down. Other suggestions include taking more exercise, as people who stay fit and healthy 40% less to develop dental diseases. Of course they also want you to brush your teeth twice a day, and to schedule that checkup.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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