The Oral Health Foundation is a long-running charity that focuses on the delivery of better oral health education both here in the UK and worldwide. You may have heard of them through their campaigns such as National Smile Month and Mouth Cancer Action Month, and many of you will have received their promotional packs in your practice.
They also offer information to dental professionals through social media campaigns, an easy-to-navigate website and their helpline. National Smile Month will probably be considered as its biggest campaign, and is a good way of bringing up the importance of good oral health with your patients between May and June each year.
“Since its very first campaign in 1977, our aim with National Smile Month has been to ultimately improve the UK's oral health. The campaign hopes to raise awareness of important health issues, and make a positive difference to the oral health of millions of people throughout the UK.” (https://www.dentalhealth.org/our-work/national-smile-month)
Oral health campaigns provide great opportunities for reinforcing any oral health education skills you may have, especially if you have not taken an OHE qualification or simply do not feel confident in communicating with patients. Organisations such as The Oral Health Foundation will send toolkits to your practice. These are full of patient-friendly information that you can utilise during appointments.
The latest campaign to be promoted is the ‘Dental Buddy’ programme, which aims to improve the oral health of children through focusing on the three following key points:
- Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Have a balanced diet and learn the importance of cutting down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks.
- Visit the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.
Whilst these points are obvious to us as dental professionals, when looking at the poor oral health of children in the UK, it is clear why such campaigns are vital in our work to reduce tooth decay throughout the country.
The Dental Buddy website (https://www.dentalhealth.org/our-work/dental-buddy) highlights how in every primary school there are currently around eight or nine children in every class who have developed tooth decay. The campaign is striving to reduce this number through better oral health education and is asking dental care professionals to join the scheme to help make a difference.
The Oral Health Foundation believes that by building links between schools and dental care professionals, they can introduce oral care into the National Curriculum. They believe that DCPs should be encouraged to come into primary schools to teach children about the importance of basic oral care, which should eventually lead to improvements in the nation’s oral health. Changing the attitudes of children towards their own oral care may seem like a challenge, but if you appeal to the children in a fun and simple manner, it can be achieved. The Dental Buddy website offers material that can be used in the classroom, including fun, interactive resources that children will be all too happy to use. Nurses in particular can use such campaigns as a rewarding break from their ‘day-to-day’ practice work, as they offer the chance to take our skills and knowledge into the wider community whilst helping in the constant fight against poor oral health.
A Shipham RDN, BA (Hons)