The end of another Great National Smile Month

Posted in: Blog, by sheanna, on 25th June 2015 | Comments Off on The end of another Great National Smile Month

Another National Smile Month drew to a close last week.

There have been the usual fantastic efforts by the BDHF (British Dental Health Foundation) and many many others around the country to raise awareness of the importance of oral health and to educate people on how to care for their mouths.

There was lots of fun, lots of smiley faces, and lots of positive messages and images out there on social media and the web.

And yet the message isn’t getting through.

Reports of increasing numbers of children requiring significant help caused by poor oral health are on the rise. Barely a week goes by without another story of an under 10 year old child in hospital for a full clearance.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 13.40.08Diet, and sugar in particular, is the issue. Whether it’s parental ignorance, apathy or simple neglect, far too many children are affected and in pain in the UK.

Of course, dental caries is the most common disease in the world – and just as common in Tanzania.

This week I spoke to an international foundation looking to change oral health behaviour within this neglected group of children – rural communities in developing countries.

But even this organisation was stunned at the level of sugar consumption in Tanzania in the rural areas, and what it leads to.

Because the basic difference between the UK and places like Tanzania is:

  • Understanding – there isn’t any knowledge of the causes of dental disease
  • Education – there isn’t any teaching on how to prevent dental problems
  • Treatment – there isn’t any access to even essential, pain relieving dentistry in rural areas where most people live

What this results in is a devastating situation where there is no understanding of the causes of oral diseases, no education to prevent it, and crucially (the difference between the west and places like Tanzania) no-one to help when the resulting disease strikes.

And so, back to the UK.

Despite the various attempts by many agencies to change behaviour in the UK there seems to be a continuation of the poor choices by parents and children that lead to the consequences described above. Maybe it’s time we changed tack on the message that we present. I’m all for being positive, but when being positive isn’t having an effect, perhaps we need to turn to alternative methods. The anti-smoking campaigns used in the past picturing the lungs of diseased individuals and some of the other impacts that smoking has on the body have been effective. Maybe it’s time we started to use some of these images in oral health promotion as well. If parents and carers are not taking notice of the smiley faces and positive attempts to prevent oral diseases, and continuing to put children in pain, then perhaps an alternative approach is needed.

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