National Smile Month runs simultaneously in both the UK and USA from 17th May to 16th June 2009. In the UK it is promoted by the British Dental Health Foundation while in the USA Oral Health America is coordinating the thirty day event. This is the first time that National smile Month will take place across the UK and the USA.
National Smile Month takes a very holistic approach to dental health. In fact, one of the main thrusts of the month’s event is to explain to the general public in simple terms the links that exist between good oral health and overall body health. Most of the population of the UK and the USA would be very surprised indeed to learn that there are strong links that exist between gum disease and the following health conditions:
o heart disease
o premature and low birth weight babies
National Smile Month is encouraging Brits and Americans on both sides of the pond to make the connection between a healthy mouth and a healthy body. Recently conducted medical research has shown that bacteria or infections in the mouth impact overall health. The research has also shown that systemic diseases affect the gums and teeth.
The disease that causes cavities or tooth decay is actually known as Caries. This disease is a transmissible infection but the good news is that it can be managed through proper oral hygiene. Management of Caries includes:
o brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing
o access to appropriate levels of fluoride in drinking water
o a carbohydrate-regulated diet that cuts down on sugary foods and drinks
o proper salivary function
o regular visits to your dentist
Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums that affects more than 30% of the adult population. Periodontal disease is often under diagnosed and under treated, despite mounting evidence of its relationship to systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and pre-term, low-birth weight babies. A key theme of National Smile Month is to urge people to ask their dentists, dental hygienists, and health care providers about periodontal disease and how it can affect overall health.
Another publicized technique is the use of dental sealants which are a thin plastic coating placed over the chewing surfaces of molar teeth. These sealants are effective in preventing and even reversing tooth decay. Dental sealants are most commonly used on children, especially at the ages when new permanent teeth erupt.
Oral Health America has released the staggering statistic that each year in the USA over 51 million school hours are lost as a result of problems related to tooth decay. Oral Health America has taken the issue directly to schools and is active in leading proper oral hygiene demonstrations for school children.
The state of Kansas has realised that oral health problems in children are a precursor for more serious health problems as children reach adulthood. Kansas has been a leader in making oral health a priority. In a multi faceted campaign that has been in place since 2004 the southern state has improved its overall ratings from a “D+” to a “B”. Kansas’ strategies to improve oral health care included:
o Expansion of oral disease prevention measures, especially school-linked oral health programs, use of fluoride varnish and dental sealants, and community water fluoridation
o Education of those in a position to stop the cycle of oral disease, including
pregnant women, parents of young children, and caregivers of vulnerable populations
o Promotion of healthy childhood nutrition, especially pre-school and school nutrition programs
o Reduction of tobacco use
The British Dental Health Foundation is a registered charity in the UK and has been established for over 38 years. The Foundation’s key messages have been at the heart of its charity work for many years and the 3 decades since the inception of National Smile Week. It’s Chief Executive, Dr Nigel Carter stated: “it is vital that we use National Smile Month to educate the public on the often underestimated importance of good oral health care.”
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