In this article, I aim to provide you with information about oral health days during 2017. I have included a summary of each campaign and ways in which you, as a dental nurse, can get involved by supporting, fundraising, or promoting. I have also included details of how to find out more information in case you want to plan an event to support any of the campaigns.
XWhen searching for awareness and campaign days within healthcare, there certainly are a lot to choose from, and there are many for us in dentistry. National Smile Month is likely to be the most well-known of these, and no doubt many of you will have taken part in previous campaigns. I have listed the various events in chronological order so that you can plan your events effectively throughout the year.
National No Smoking Day
- When? Usually 8th March
- Who? British Heart Foundation
Although not strictly an oral health campaign, National No Smoking Day can encourage people to quit smoking, and we know that this has a significant impact on oral health. The title really says it all here. It is a campaign to encourage smokers to give up the habit for one day. It also helps smokers to find help and support if they are thinking of giving up. When researching this article, I found conflicting dates for the event this year. The event last year ran on 9th March, as promoted by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). When doing an internet search for this year's event, I have found the dates 8th, 9th and 11th March listed, with nothing on the BHF website itself. I have been in touch with the BHF, who have responded that they are in fact not running the event this year. I feel this is a great shame, as promoting stopping smoking is a very important message. I can only assume that this is because the event has been overshadowed by 'Stoptober', which is a month-long variation of National No Smoking Day. I have, however, still included information in this article, as they may choose to run the event again next year – I think that it is useful for dental nurses to know about it to aid future planning of events. National No Smoking Day has been running for a long time, so it is useful to be aware of it, as your patients may mention it.
World Oral Health Day
- When? 20th March 2017
- Who? FDI World Dental Federation
World Oral Health Day began in 2007 and promotes being 'mouth smart' and having good oral health for a healthy future. The organizers advise people to:
Adopt good oral hygiene habits from early in life and have regular dental check-ups. This helps you maintain optimal oral health into old age and ensures you live not only a longer life, but also one free from the physical pain and often emotional suffering caused by oral disease.
(FDI World Dental Federation, 2016)
Public education seems to be a key message, and we are the people best placed to pass on this education, which is vital to improving the oral health of our society – people need to be equipped with the right information and guidance to be able to care for their own mouths when we are not with them. For example, a patient with gingivitis may attend hygienist visits every three months, but their disease is not going to improve if they are not carrying out an effective oral hygiene regime at home. Similarly, a patient with a poor diet and high caries rate is not going to find that their oral health improves if they do not make the necessary dietary changes. Some people are unaware of hidden sugars in foods and will not know how to look for these unless they are taught. It is also worth having a simplified discussion with them about the Stephan Curve to show how frequency of sugar intake influences caries rates.
The partners to World Oral Health Day are Henry Schein, Phillips Sonicare and Unilever, with support from Wrigley.
To get involved, you can find a selection of posters on the website – you can download these for free and display them in your practice waiting room. There are also leaflets with practical advice that you could pass on to your patients. You could also share links to their website on social media if you or your practice have pages. You can like and share their posts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to promote their message to your friends and family – not just to your patients. A tool kit with more fundraising ideas is also available for free via the website.
National Smile Month
- When? 15th May – 15th June 2017
- Who? Oral Health Foundation
As I stated previously, National Smile Month is probably the most well-known oral health campaign. The Oral Health Foundation have thought up many creative and fun ways that you can get involved. National Smile Month began as only a single-day campaign and has grown to be what it is today. The aim is to improve oral health in the UK and educate the public, and the campaign promotes three key messages. They are:
- Brush your teeth last thing at night and on at least one other occasion with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks.
- Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.
(Oral Health Foundation, date unknown)
The big promotional idea that I feel stands out for National Smile Month is their ‘smiley’ campaign. These are big smiles with the three key messages printed on the back. They are available from the campaign’s online shop. Smileys can be used in your waiting room just as leaflets, but they are also part of the campaign’s selfie competition. You, your team, and your patients can all take photographs of yourselves with a smiley and upload them to the internet using the tags @smilemonth, #mysmileyselfie and #smilemonth. This is a great visual aid for your patients and is also interactive and helps to promote the event to your younger patients, who will no doubt have their own social media pages. Winners of the Smiley Selfie competition receive prizes such as tickets to a local comedy club.
The Oral Health Foundation also want people to upload photographs of themselves in places with names relating to dentistry. They then aim to create a map of the country using these photographs. So if you have a town or street near you that you think could count, make sure you get photographing. It would be even better if you could do it with your smiley. I enlisted the help of a mapping app on my mobile phone to find 'Bridge Road' near my practice, so get creative and see what you can find. If you are struggling, there is a list of place names organised by location on the campaign’s website to help you out.
Another of the campaign’s games asks people to upload a picture of a person they know who is always smiling. It could be a great way for you to pay tribute to someone who always cheers you up and makes you smile.
As well as the Smileys, there are lots of resources available from the campaign's website, including posters and leaflets for your practice waiting rooms.
- When? October 2017
- Who? Public Health England
In a similar way to National No Smoking Day, Stoptober aims to encourage smokers to quit the habit. Again, this is not specifically an oral health campaign, although smoking has a huge impact on oral health. Stoptober began in 2012 and is:
… based on the insight that if you can stop smoking for 28 days, you are five times more likely to be able to stay quit for good.
(Public Health England, date unknown).
Stoptober is now part of a wider campaign by the NHS called ‘One You’, which also includes NHS Smokefree. Many details of this campaign can be found in the waiting room of your local GP practice.
You can get involved by downloading Stoptober posters, which could be displayed in your practice waiting room – and you should never rule out having a chat with your patients about stopping smoking. While you do not want to constantly nag patients (as people tend to only stop smoking when they are doing it for their own reasons), simply mentioning it can start them thinking about it. A waiting room display can also highlight the impact of smoking on the mouth. Many people do not realise how many ways smoking affects their mouth, so pointing these things out to them could also be a starting point for them in considering stopping smoking. However, available resources have not yet been updated for the 2017 campaign, so do make sure there are up-to-date versions there before you download them. The NHS Smokefree website also has an app that smokers can download which gives them help and support while they are trying to quit.
Mouth Cancer Action Month
- When? 1st – 30th November 2017
- Who? Oral Health Foundation
Mouth Cancer Action Month aims to raise awareness of mouth cancer and to promote regular dental check-ups, as early detection is vital in treating oral cancer. The campaign aims to educate patients on what to look out for and to encourage them to have anything unusual checked by their dentist.
As with National Smile Month, there is a selfie competition that you, your dental team, and your patients can take part in. The competition is organised by Denplan, and its website is www.bluelipselfie.co.uk and. You can upload your selfies either here or to your usual social media page using the hashtag #bluelipselfie. You can even buy your blue lipstick from the Oral Health Foundation's online shop.
There are fundraising events throughout the UK that you can take part in, and details of these are on the event's website. They are also running 'Blue Wednesday' on Wednesday 18th November, which encourages people to wear blue or one of the campaign’s blue ribbons.
If you are planning a waiting room display for this event, resources are available from the campaign’s online shop. These include scrub tops that you and the rest of your dental team can wear, car stickers, leaflets, blue ribbons to sell to your patients, and posters to help patients spot oral cancer signs themselves.
Again, make use of social media in promoting this campaign with Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Many of these campaigns have similar ideas when it comes to raising awareness and promoting their event. Social media links are always popular and can be shared easily on personal profiles as well as practice pages.
Waiting room displays can be a team-building experience for your practice team, as they encourage everybody to share their ideas. Leaflets can also be added to your displays to give your patients something to take away with them.
The Oral Health Foundation have an online shop which offers all sorts of promotional materials for their events. Why not try creating a goody bag for your patients? You can select which items from their shop to include in your goody bag and also personalise it to your practice by adding your own materials.
If you are holding an event, be sure to let the campaign organizers know via their website, as they will be able to help you with ideas. It is also worth speaking to the local press for some promotion too. Open days have proven quite popular in practices I know, encouraging new patients to come along and meet the team in an informal setting. If you are planning an event, make it fun for yourselves so that your whole team enjoys the experience.
If that all sounds too time-consuming, then you can simply donate to your chosen campaign to help them continue their good work.
Don’t forget to post on the Dental Nurse Network forum if you make plans or have more ideas. These oral health days are a great opportunity for us to work together as a profession and could have a great impact on our patients.
Author: Katie Booth RDN, CTLLS, OHE
FDI World Dental Federation. (2016). Live Mouth Smart. Available at http://www.worldoralhealthday.com/ (accessed on 10/2/17)
Public Health England. (Date unknown). Stoptober. Available at https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/6-stoptober/overview (accessed on 10/2/17)