What is National Smile Month?
National Smile Month is a campaign organised by the Oral Health Foundation (formerly the British Dental Health Foundation). The aim is simple – to improve oral health in the UK. It began as a week-long campaign called Smile '77 in 1977 and went on to be known as National Smile Week. Whilst celebrating its thirtieth birthday it became National Smile Month, and it is now approaching its fortieth birthday! This year it will run from 16th May to 16th June. The campaign helps to bring preventative messages to our patients.
There are three key messages for the campaign:
• Brush your teeth using a fluoride toothpaste last thing at night and on at least one other occasion during the day.
• Cut down on how often you consume sugary foods and drinks.
• Visit your dentist regularly – as often as they recommend.
(Oral Health Foundation)
These seem like simple messages to us, but this can sometimes mean that we take it for granted that our patients are already aware of these messages, and so we don't reinforce them. National Smile Month is a great time to find ways to promote these messages to your patients and help improve oral health in the UK. As a trainee teacher, I am constantly reminded not to assume that people know things just because I do. It is always great to reinforce oral health messages when you can. We should never miss opportunities to help patients improve their own health.
How can you get involved?
There are many ways you can get involved with the campaign. And why not? It can be a great talking point with your patients and can help to motivate them to improve their oral health. It provides us with an opportunity to build our patients' knowledge that we may not otherwise have had.
Waiting room displays can work really well to promote this event. I know that a lot of practices do not like to have these, but as this one is only for a month, you may be able to convince your bosses to have a display just for this event. Also, if it is something you design yourself with your practice team, you can ensure that it fits in with the branding of your practice. Designing displays yourself means that you are completely in control of how they look. You could also use the design process as a team-building event and get colleagues involved. Researching the messages you want to pass on to patients could also be used as a non-verifiable CPD activity. This could involve dietary advice, oral hygiene instruction and information on the oral hygiene aids available to your patients. The products available are constantly changing, so it is always good practice for us to stay up-to-date with what is available.
If your boss does not like the idea of a display, how about creating a gift bag for your patients during the event? It is up to you what you decide to include – it could range from simple things such as stationery and information leaflets, or you could tailor them to each individual patient and include the specific cleaning aids you have recommended. Lots of companies send free samples, so it is worth getting in touch with your suppliers to see what you can get. As one of the key messages includes using a fluoride toothpaste, you may want to add toothpaste samples to your gift bags.
If that seems too time-consuming for you or if it will require more resources than you can gather, simply passing on leaflets to your patients could motivate them and will certainly make them aware of the messages of the campaign.
A great idea would be to take the event out into your local community and attend local schools or clubs such as Brownies or Scouts. You could do tooth-brushing demonstrations and play games to teach the children how to spot hidden sugars in foods and how to identify healthy drinks and snacks. As well as promoting National Smile Month, this is also a good way to promote your practice and advertise the services you offer.
Another way to make these oral health messages accessible to people who are not your patients is to hold a practice open day. These can be very successful ways of registering new patients, as people can come to the practice for an informal day to look around and hear about the treatment options available to them without feeling nervous or pressured.
If your practice has an oral health educator, utilise them during the event. It is fine to advise patients to brush their teeth twice a day but taking the time to show them how to do it properly will help them remember your advice. It is also a great opportunity to tailor your advice to them as individuals – something which is vital when demonstrating interdental cleaning.
You could contact the local press to advertise your event so that people are aware of it. This can promote oral health messages even further.
If you type ‘National Smile Month’ into a search engine, you will easily find their website, or you can head straight to www.nationalsmilemonth.org. They have a range of resources available to help you plan what to do during the month and leaflets that you can give to your patients. They also have what they call a ‘smiley’ – a paper smile which has the three key messages on the back – that you could also hand out to your patients. They also encourage posting selfies with your smiley on social media.
You can find National Smile Month on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – so give them a like and a follow for more ideas for your event. Their Twitter feed is also a great resource for up-to-date news. And don’t forget to upload your #mysmileyselfie for a chance to win prizes. They have a few competitions for you to enter, and you can encourage your patients to get involved too!
Katie Booth, RDN
Oral Health Foundation. About National Smile Month. Available at: http://www.nationalsmilemonth.org/about-smile-month/ [accessed on 28/4/16].