This month sees the start of National Smile Month (NSM), the UK’s largest and longest-running campaign to promote good oral health.
Organised and run by the Oral Health Foundation, it’s focused on maintaining happy mouths and spreading healthy dental messages throughout the UK. It unites dental and health professionals, schools, pharmacies, community groups, colleges and workplaces.
It all comes down to three key messages:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Say no to sugary snacks and drinks
- Visit your dentist regularly
The messages go beyond the confines of the mouth too. As well as being a major cause of tooth loss, poor oral health can have worrying effect on the rest of the body too. In fact gum disease has been linked to a number of serious conditions including:
- Heart disease – bacteria in the mouth can get into the bloodstream and contribute to the production of a protein which can cause platelets to stick together in the blood vessels of the heart. This increases the chance of blood clots which can go on to cause heart attacks.
- Strokes – the protein caused by bacteria in the mouth can inflame blood vessels which can block the blood supply to the brain.
- Diabetes – people with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease, probably because they are more prone to infections in general. Also people are more at risk from diabetes if they have gum disease.
- Premature or low birth weight babies – pregnant ladies with gum disease are over three times more likely to have a premature baby with a low birth weight.
- Respiratory disease – as chest infections are caused by inhaling droplets from the mouth and throat, people with gum disease may have more bacteria in those areas and so be more susceptible to infection.
National Smile Month has a whole bunch of competitions, educational resources and events to communicate vital health messages and motivate people to take care of their teeth – so why not get involved and help raise awareness of an issue that’s rather close to our heart.