A protest in Parliament Square by 100,000 people calling for an end to the war in Sri Lanka could have put paid to the official launch of National Smile Month.
But oral health experts and dental figures made their way through the police barriers and campaigning crowds outside Parliament to hear deputy chief dental officer Sue Gregory officially declare the 34th campaign open.
Surgeries, hospitals, primary care trusts, schools, colleges and businesses across the UK are set to support the British Dental Health Foundation’s (BDHF) campaign once again as National Smile Month provides a timely reminder of the importance of the systemic link between good oral health care and whole body health.
The launch took place in the terrace dining room at the Houses of Parliament and gathered together important UK dental figures. Among them, the British Dental Association’s chief executive
Peter Ward and excutive board chair Susie Sanderson, the BDHF’s chief executive Dr Nigel Carter, Tony Reed and Simon Gambold from the British Dental Trade Association and Uchenna Okoye, the cosmetic dentist from Channel 4’s makeover show, 10 Years Younger and Oral B ambassador.
Joining Nigel Carter, Dr Okoye, and Sue Gregory in speaking at the event were Adrian Toomey, from co-sponsors Wrigley, and Dr Chris Potts, president of the BDHF.
• Left to right: BDA’s Peter Ward, Denplan’s Steven Gates and the BDTA’s Tony Reed
Also there, dentist Mike Reece, 55, and his wife Sara, 43, from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, who have just launched Smilescool, an oral health programme aimed at pre-schoolers and primary schoolchildren that hopes to offer a ‘revolutionary and holistic delivery approach to children’s dental care and education’.
Children go to a bright classroom where they are gradually introduced to the hygienist, then dentist.
‘By the time they eventually sit in the dentist’s chair they feel safe and realise that, actually, it’s no big deal,’ explains Sara.
With encouragement from various dental bodies, including the BDHF, the couple are looking to set up an affiliation programme with dental practices throughout the UK.
Nigel Carter commented: ‘Early dental care is vital. Research suggests that the later a child gets their first dental cavity, the better their lifetime oral health is likely to be. This is a highly innovative project that we are confident will help towards positive progress in children’s oral health.’
Last year’s campaign made a huge impact with more than one thousand media features generating £1 million worth of coverage, encouraging better healthcare.
A significant milestone was achieved as partnership with Oral Health America led to the first National Smile Month to run simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.
This year, the US campaign has been confirmed once more and it was announced at the launch that there is strong interest from other countries across the world who are keen to use the UK National Smile Month campaign model, too.
Speaking at the launch, chief executive of the Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: ‘The National Smile Month launch proved a fantastic event as once more the great and the good of UK dentistry convened at the House of Commons to toast this year’s campaign.
‘We are sure the campaign theme “Look After Yourself, Brush for Health” will get the nation talking about the importance of good oral health and we anticipate yet another successful campaign.
‘This event will hopefully prove to be a fantastic platform for events across the country and we look forward to the activities organised by all our supporters.’
Support for the campaign also came from platinum sponsors Oral-B, Wrigley’s ORBIT Complete sugar-free chewing gum and Tesco Dental Insurance.